November 10, 2017
Grand Trunk Railway Company Building (Gorham Savings Bank), Portland
For years it stood alone at the corner of India and Commercial streets—the all but forgotten Grand Trunk Railway Company Building, constructed in 1903. Once an outbuilding for the sprawling 1901 Grand Trunk Railroad Station, the three-story Company Building was all that remained after the station complex was thoughtlessly demolished beginning in 1961.
But decades later, there was good news for the fortunate survivor. In 2016, seeing an ideal location for a suite of corporate office, Gorham Savings Bank purchased the building and initiated a rehabilitation project using historic tax credits.
The building was constructed of red brick trimmed with granite and highly decorative brick details, with pressed copper enlivening the roof cornice. On the interior, historic finishes survived in many locations, including bead board wainscoting, molded window and door casings with corner blocks, and wood flooring likely associated with the original structure. Still, years of roof leaks likely associated with a third-story constructed in the 1930s had caused extensive structural damage and deterioration of plasterwork. Additionally, several original transom windows had been blocked, and nearly every other original window replaced without attention to historic character.
Gorham Savings and its many development partners, including Developers Collaborative and Archetype Architects, repainted all the exterior brick while unblocking all second-floor window openings. New wood windows were fabricated, along with exterior storms, once again providing stunning views of Portland’s waterfront. Inside, the team encountered structural inconsistencies that required replacement of key structural elements. As interior work progressed, 1980s suspended ceilings were removed and historic finishes like plaster walls and ceilings, bead board wainscoting and wood trim restored. Teams also removed the decorative copper cornice around the edge of the roof and completely reframed the structure. Now, with the original copper, back in place, the cornice should endure for another century.
Without Gorham’s intervention and dedication, this vestige of Maine’s transportation history could have deteriorated beyond repair. Instead, it has become the bank’s busy, new downtown Portland office—with 23 staffers working onsite. The first floor currently holds a retail area along with an interactive teller machine, allowing customers to video bank with tellers at other locations. The second floor is occupied by Gorham Savings’ marketing and business banking staff, while the third floor holds executive offices and a board room.
The main station may have been lost, but The Grand Trunk Railway Building endures, and has become yet another tax credit success story at the edge of the city’s Old Port.
State Historic Tax Credit financing was provided by CEI.
Story and video shared with permission by Maine Preservation.