Watching an excavator take the Haggett building down Friday morning, lifelong Wiscasset resident Steve Christiansen recalled growing up playing in and around the building with the Haggetts and, on Halloween, dropping eggs from the roof.
“For us it was kind of like a playground. Part of me hates to see it go, but this is going to be better,” Christiansen, whose family goes back 280 years in town, said of Maine Department of Transportation’s downtown improvement project that called for parking there.
People may be parking there by the third week of September, but that’s a guess, MDOT’s project manager Ernie Martin said at the site. He expected the building to be rubble, or “rubblized” by Friday’s end, he said.
Until the rubble is hauled away, barricades will block the site, Martin said. This year, it will be a gravel parking lot; next spring will come the paving, landscaping and, in a corner, the building’s stone signage saved from the facade. The stones were at the town’s public works department for now, he said.
American Legion Post 54 of Wiscasset Cmdr. William Cossette Jr. and member John Kennedy of Woolwich were taking away decking and steps Cossette said he asked MDOT if the post could have, to help replace the back deck of the post’s hall on Route 1.
“This will save us all kinds of money,” Kennedy said.
“That’s what it’s all about,” helping communities with materials left from projects whenever possible, Martin said.
He said some people didn’t want the building removed, and that’s unfortunate; it’s sad to lose a building, but the lot and the rest of the project will benefit the community, Martin said.
“This is the reinvention of Wiscasset,” with better parking, said resident Ken Kennedy-Patterson. Watching with Christiansen, he said living on Main Street the last five years, he has watched as people look for places to park. They end up by the former Le Garage restaurant way down the street, he said.
Middle Street resident Don Davis didn’t like what he was seeing that morning, and he said his mini dachshund Sadie and, especially, dachshund-mix Luke, who he called the mayor of Wiscasset, weren’t liking it, either. As Luke continued barking in the direction of the half-gone building, Davis said Luke has always liked to lift his leg there. “It’s one of his favorite watering holes.’
Davis said he felt very sad the building was coming down. “It’s a perfectly good structure.” He supports the downtown project, but not this aspect of it, he said.
Down the street from the “mayor,” Town Manager Marian Anderson, in a hard hat, was taking photos and videos for the town’s Facebook page. Asked for her thoughts seeing the building come down after all the town votes on the project and debate over MDOT’s decision on the Haggett building, she said: “Well, change is difficult. But it’s part of progress. And all of the discussion I think has been good.”
She said it appeared those working on-site were being as considerate as they could be.
Motorist Al Cohen, waiting to get by with his Boston Whaler Stolen Time to take it to get worked on, said they should have just closed the street so people would take a different route. “This is very disorganized,” he said.
During the morning, workers hosed falling debris with water. That helps with dust and any sparking that could result from materials brushing one another, Martin explained. By late morning, the excavator, working from the back forward, was getting nearer the building’s front, and exposed the interior.
Ralph Coogan of The Villages, Florida, knew nothing of the demolition. He stopped in town to have his first ever meal at Red’s Eats, where he had waited in line one day earlier but left the line when the lightning from the big thunderstorm reached town. He wanted to eat, but not that badly, he said.
So he had a great meal at C-Ray Lobster in Bar Harbor Thursday night, then stopped again in Wiscasset Friday for Red’s Eats on his way home to Florida.
“And I happened to look up and see this,” Coogan said as he continued watching it on Water Street with his Chihuahua-mix rescue Chi Chi. “It’s amazing. They’re taking that down so quickly.”