Bricks shower sidewalk as part of historic Wawenock block collapses

Sat, 04/03/2021 - 6:00pm

    No injuries were reported after part of the Wawenock block collapsed Saturday afternoon showering hundreds of bricks onto the Main Street, Wiscasset sidewalk in front of the historic building.

    Wiscasset Fire Chief Rob Bickford said he received a call at 3:05 p.m. that the side of the three-story brick building had dangerously buckled. “I looked away for just a minute and then heard a tremendous crash, bricks and chunks of mortar were all over the sidewalk,” Bickford told Wiscasset Newspaper.

    No one was on the sidewalk when the side of the building gave way. The falling bricks tore away a section of Wiscasset Bay Gallery, damaging an iron railing leading into In A Silent Way, a wine shop. The newspaper was not immediately able to confirm if the businesses were open when, without warning, the side of the building came crashing down.

    “I had just walked by it and went into In the Clover to do some shopping, just a few minutes later there was an enormous crash and I ran out to see what had happened,” Leslie Harlow of Ellsworth said. Harlow said it was fortunate no one was injured.

    Wiscasset Police Officer Nathan Willhoite and Public Works Director Ted Snowdon helped firefighters secure the scene. Town Manager Dennis Simmons was on the scene as well.

    Willhoite was in contact by telephone with the building’s owner, Ralph Doering.

    Doering’s spokesman Mark Robinson said via email Monday, the Doering family found out almost immediately about Saturday’s incident and “swiftly took appropriate action. Within two hours they had a construction professional on the scene to make sure nobody was in danger. On Easter Sunday, Ralph had an expert structural engineer visit Wiscasset to assess the situation. At this time, the Doerings have no information regarding the cause of the collapse. They are experienced real estate professionals, with a strong network of experts, and they will deal with the situation as such. The first priority is to protect everyone’s safety, and the next priority will be how to remedy the situation.”

    Robinson said the family has owned the property since the early 1980s; Wiscasset Bay Gallery has been a tenant there for about 30 years, and A Silent Way opened last year. There are no tenants on the second and third floors, Robinson said. He added, Doering said Wiscasset public safety officials and the town manager have been phenomenal. “Extremely responsive right from the start on Saturday afternoon, and Ralph has been in close touch with the manager. That will continue.”

    The Wawenock building is one of the oldest structures downtown. Completed in 1858, it was built of bricks made in Wiscasset and was designed by Alexander Johnston Jr. Named in honor of the Native American tribe the Wawenocks, the building is between the former bank building on the corner of Water Street and the Franklin Block, standing on the corner of Middle Street. The Wawenock building has undergone a good deal of remodeling over the years, but still retains its original lines, slate roof and historic charm.