HEBRON — The only surviving building of the town’s once thriving railroad complex on Station Road is one step closer to being saved from demolition.
The Board of Selectmen gave its go-ahead on July 23 to rescind a previous vote to move the building off town property and have agreed to let the Historical Society proceed with plans to move the building slightly forward on its current site and turn it at a 90-degree angle.
The move would open up a view of the Town Garage.
Efforts to save the small, wood-framed building on Station Street have been ongoing for several years but lack of resources, and full support from all members of a previous Board of Selectmen, made efforts to save it more difficult.
Some felt that the building was not salvageable and blocked the view of the Town Garage which was constructed several years ago.
Now, with the help of volunteers, the building can be relocated.
“It’s all set to move,” Historical Society Vice President Bob Swift told the Board of Selectmen.
Several weeks ago local Hebron builder and volunteer Pete Gleason raised the building off the ground – as much as 18 inches in some places – to level it and prepare for the move.
The change, said Swift and others, was immediately noticeable.
Swift said many motorists passing by have stopped to admire the building now that it is level.
A man from Buckfield stopped by the site one day and offered a sled to simply slide the building over to its new position, Swift said. While the idea was entertained and appreciated, Swift told the board the sled would not quite hold the building’s size.
“It would take some 20 poles and hang over about 5 feet on the sides,” said Swift. “It’s too much for three people (to manage.)”
Swift said the recent work to stabilize the building revealed some surprises, such as the four layers of floor on the office side of the building. Some of the floorboards have been salvaged for reuse. A sill will have to be replaced and the roof will have to be repaired before other work is begun to restore the building.
“I see the vision,” Selectwoman Beth Olsen told her fellow board members after she saw the recent work to level and better secure the building for its move.
“It will still be right there but the town building (garage) will stand out more. I think it really opens up the town building,” she said of the plan to move the building slightly forward and turn it at a 90-degree angle.
Olsen said the move appears to be so simple, that you could possibly put the building on logs and roll it, like many much larger buildings were moved years ago.
The journey to its new, nearby, location has not been easy.
In April of 2017, voters turn down a request by the Historical Society for $5,000 to restore it and selectmen ordered it moved from in front of the Town Garage on Station Road by the end of that August.
Determined to save the last railroad building in town and believing at that time, that the building might even be the original depot, the Historical Society worked, to find an alternative.
They initiated a new plan to relocate the building down the street to the entrance of the Hebron Station School to the SAD 17 Board of Directors. In June of 2017, the majority of school directors agreed to allow the society to move it to the Hebron Station School property if the exterior was renovated first and no one was allowed inside until it was restored.
Society members said the site would make the building visible and eventually usable for educational purposes.
While it was determined that very little lead paint existed in the building, the lack of funds and other issues necessitated a simpler plan, to move the building out of the way of the Town Garage.
Selectmen agreed to extend the time and allow them to keep the building on town property and recently both the board and society agreed that it would be simpler and cheaper to keep it where it is.
While the building may not be the original depot, research continues to see whether it functioned as more than a freight building.
What is known is that the original train depot was built in 1878. Its designer was unknown, but according to Charles Ian Stevenson, who wrote a 2013 dissertation for Boston University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, it was considered an “inherited” depot on the Portland and Rumford Falls Railroad line.
Between 1890 and 1897 civil engineer Frederic Danforth and architect Edwin Lewis developed landscapes and designed new stations for the Portland and Rumford Falls Railroad line many of which had combination freight and office buildings.
Hebron Station School, built in 2002 in the area of the Hebron railroad station and freight buildings, was named for the railroad complex. The line was last used by the Maine Central Railroad in 1945, about the time that many believe the current railroad building was moved from the area that is now ball fields to its current location.
While local research continues to try to unravel the building’s history, what is known is that this building is the last remaining piece of the East Hebron Train Station and what many consider an important part of Hebron’s history.
The Historical Society is in need of donations, including materials such as roofing. A Go Fund Me page is available for financial donations by going to www.gofundme.com/east-hebron-maine-train-building.
Donations can also be accepted by sending them directly to the Hebron Historical Society at P.O. Box 294, Hebron, ME 04238. Donations can be dropped off at the local Hebron Storekeepers store next to the restoration site or at the Hebron Town Office.
“We’re making progress,” said Swift.