What People are Reading
- What a very sad and shocking
2 years 29 weeks ago
- Smart Meters
2 years 32 weeks ago
- 100 year old house burns
2 years 32 weeks ago
- Column 2-10 re Treason
2 years 41 weeks ago
- Radical Difference
2 years 42 weeks ago
- This activity is such a
2 years 50 weeks ago
- Okay Great we got a sign!
2 years 50 weeks ago
- Hate Crime a Sad Moment Indeed
3 years 2 days ago
More in Featured
Architecture in Norway speaks to a storied past
ARCHITECTURAL GEMS — A scenic view of downtown Norway, highlighted by the Norway Opera House.
NORWAY — For nearly two hours this past week, PowerPoint clicker in hand, one of Maine's foremost architectural historians took 40 people at the Norway Memorial Library on a 300-year excursion through wooded structures, in between Greek-styled columns and over the minute details of what life must have been like in those earlier days.
He told the audience how the vestiges of those times remain today, and how they can be seen in the edifices that now house everything from bankers to baristas. They include the fronts of buildings visitors and locals alike walk by daily without much fanfare.
For Christopher Glass, who presented the lecture, "300 Years of Maine Houses: Why Our Houses Look the Way They Do," as part of the Norway Arts Festival's preliminary events for its 46th annual Norway Arts Festival, the evening became a well-rehearsed presentation on a subject of importance to those who care about historic preservation. It also became Glass' personal stage where the actors were houses built as long as three centuries ago and their script was the story each of them carries.
Those "houses" were the homes and playpens of the then rich and famous but also individuals of more modest means. Some have undergone revisions suited to the various owners' tastes. Today, they are at the forefront of a debate on the economic vitality of small town architecture, and its relevance to the broader urban and rural landscapes, Glass explained to his attentive audience.
"Preservation is economic development," Glass stated to the group. He said that as much as $25 million in construction is often applied to projects that have historical elements and are undergoing restoration.
For Glass' presentation, a few simple questions need to be asked in order to understand the significance and meaning of the architecture: "What were they thinking? What was going on in the minds of people when houses were being built?"
Glass, who opened the lecture by dedicating it to famed Norway artist Duncan Slade, said people in those days built their own houses directly influenced by how others built their homes.
Over the course of time, Glass says a number of the architectural treasures have been lost but the mid-1960s establishment of the National Register of Historic Places has served to thwart additional demolitions. There's a lesson in that, he said.
"Maybe it would be nice if the federal government knew what it was tearing it down before it tore it down," he quipped.
In recent years, downtown Norway has experienced a revitalization of its older buildings, among them the famed Norway Opera House on Main Street. On the first floor level are several specialty shops, while the upstairs portion that includes that actual opera theater awaits funding for a total overhaul and a restoration to its once elegant character.
An example of how modernism can augment a historical structure is the offices for Norway Savings Bank on Main Street across from the Norway Memorial Library, an architectural gem along with the current Norway Post Office.
He said the inside of the bank has a free-flowing and open feel to it that does not take away from the historic elements of the building's exterior.
Glass pointed out that many of the structures in Maine, including Norway, included windows precisely positioned, columns that had a foreign feel and clapboards on the exterior. These materials, he said, ultimately captured a true sense of New England architecture.
Other styles included the Victorian-styled mansion, wedding-cake looking homes, the Tudor-styled structure or the influence of an Italian designer. Even mobile homes, he said, had their place, as they were built to resemble either a bus or a rail car. The problem, he said, was that the home became a stationary object that didn't move.
"We want style cheap," he said. "Once you've got economic necessity, you've got style."