There's a controversy brewing in Portland right now over a building that has stood on Free Street for almost 200 years that could be demolished unless something is done to stop it.

The building is known as the Chamber of Commerce building and was originally built in 1830 as a theater, but by the 1900s, it was redesigned and became the home of the Portland Chamber of Commerce.

This postcard from Daniles Postcards shows that the exterior of the building hasn't changed since the 1920s, although the inside has seen several renovations.

Daniels Postcards via ebay
Daniels Postcards via ebay

In 1993, the Children's Museum of Maine moved into the former Chamber of Commerce building. In 2021 the  Children's Museum of Maine and Children's Theater of Maine merged and moved to their own, much larger building at Thompson's Point in Portland, leaving the Chamber of Commerce building empty once again.

Since then, the Portland Museum of Art bought the building, and plans to tear it down to expand the museum. That's not sitting well with many people.

The building is nearly 200 years old, and is culturally significant to Portland and Maine.

Greater Portland Landmarks released a statement on their position on the matter, saying:

Greater Portland Landmarks does not oppose the expansion of the PMA campus, which is already home to several historic buildings. However, we find no basis for reclassification of the 142 Free Street building as a non-contributing structure and firmly believe the PMA can achieve its expansion plans without demolishing it.

Now, it's up to the Portland City Council to decide the building's fate. The council decided to postpone the vote on the matter until the next meeting.

Let's hope the building is saved. We should have learned our lesson by now, after the demolition of Portland's Union Station.

Public Domain
Public Domain

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