2013-02-19 / Front Page

Church offering historic building — free for the taking

BY JT LEONARD Times Record Staff


THE PENNELL HOUSE, located at 5-7 Middle St. in Brunswick, will be torn down unless it can be moved from the site before March 31. It’s owned by the Unitarian Universalist Church, which has offered the building for free to anyone willing to move it. 
SKIP BRIMLOW / UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH THE PENNELL HOUSE, located at 5-7 Middle St. in Brunswick, will be torn down unless it can be moved from the site before March 31. It’s owned by the Unitarian Universalist Church, which has offered the building for free to anyone willing to move it. SKIP BRIMLOW / UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH BRUNSWICK

Free to good owner: One house. Complete with history. By March 31. You pick up.

It sounds like a prank ad in Uncle Henry’s but it’s not.

Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick wants to start construction on its new building, to replace the one that burned to the ground almost 18 months ago. But first it must move or raze the Pennell House, a building at 5-7 Middle St. that used to house congregational offices, Sunday school and meeting rooms.

Initially, church officials hoped to build a new church that incorporates the 100-year-old structure.

When the project went to bid last summer, every proposal included two prices: one to work around Pennell House; another with the house not there.

All of the “without” bids were substantially lower.

Pennell House was purchased in two stages in the 1980s and 1990s, then named in honor of sibling congregation members Lawrence Pennell and Alice Pennell Toothaker — whose estate bequests made its acquisition possible.

That’s why the Rev. Sylvia Stocker and other church officials want to see the building preserved rather than demolished.

Likewise, because of the building’s age and history, municipal officials asked the church to pursue any and all options that might keep the wrecking ball at bay.

No moving estimate has been obtained by the church. But Stocker knows the costs associated with moving the building likely will be so astronomical as to render the process little more than an academic exercise.

Part of the problem with including the house into the new building is work required to make it comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The new church building has been designed to be easier for its elderly or disabled worshipers to get into and out of, and Pennell House would have to conform, as well.

That would mean new floor joists, sills, doorways and even a lift to get people to the second floor. All of those changes are possible but would be too expensive for the budget, according to building team co-chairman Steve Eagles.

A Portland contractor and Lewiston architect have been hired, and the item soon will be placed on agendas for the town’s Village Review and Planning boards.

The church hopes to break ground in the spring, according to Mike Heath, chairman of the church’s board of directors.

“If all goes smoothly, it should be a six-month construction process, which should put us (in the new building) about the first of the year,” Heath said.

Deadline for Pennell House’s removal is March 31.

Anyone with the means and interest should call the church at 729-8515.

jtleonard@timesrecord.com

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