Jump to content


Why haven't you registered yet?

Registration is quick, easy and completely FREE! Click the Create Account button located at the top-right to sign-up and receive additional benefits that existing members are already receiving!

Photo
- - - - -

Portland's Time and Temperature Building


This topic has been archived. This means that you cannot reply to this topic.
10 replies to this topic

#1 Cotuit

Cotuit

    Megalopolis

  • Members+
  • 13,179 posts

Posted 30 November 2003 - 06:03 PM

Mall is not lost
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
By TUX TURKEL, Portland Press Herald Writer

Few indoor shopping malls existed anywhere in the early 1920s, when developers broke ground for one of Maine's first skyscrapers, at the corner of Congress and Preble streets in downtown Portland. But when the Chapman Building opened in 1924, residents found that it contained the novel treat of an indoor shopping plaza.

Architects had carved out a large, two-story rectangle inside an extension of the building and lined the ground floor with fancy shops. Above, a glassed-in mezzanine and balconies looked down on a sloping floor, which was illuminated by a massive skylight.

This was Maine's first arcade. Common in Europe and prominent in large American cities, including Providence and Cleveland, the arcade revolutionized shopping. The Chapman Building became a prototype for the modern shopping mall here.

The significance of the space is lost today to those who visit 477 Congress St., or the Time and Temperature Building as the 14-story office tower is known because of the big digital clock on its roof. The tower's grand past is hidden now, sealed away under false ceilings and drywall.

That situation may soon change.

The tower's new owner is proposing a $1 million restoration to return the arcade and other elements of the building to their historical prominence. Jeffrey Cohen, president of 477 Congress LLC, is working with an architect and contractors on a plan to create prime retail and office space in the arcade, while returning the building's facade to its original look.

Cohen and his team are still reviewing costs and won't be able to nail down the scope of the work until sometime next month. But Cohen seems eager to create what he calls a signature office building in Monument Square.

"This is what it was," he said recently, admiring a sketch of the arcade, circa 1928. "And if we can find a way to bring it back economically, that's what we will do."

The building at 477 Congress St. is perhaps best known for the 30-foot-long, 9-foot-high digital clock on its roof, a Portland landmark since it was installed in 1964. The sign, which registers the time and temperature and flashes messages, first came to life on what was then the Casco Bank building.

The clock became popular in the 1970s when Portland Savings Bank, the owner of the sign and the tower during that period, held summer contests in which residents were invited to guess when the sign would first register 90 degrees. Winners got $500.

But weather and time took a toll on the electronic sentry by the 1990s. It was replaced with a new model in 1999 by the real estate arm of Libra Foundation, which owned the building until selling it to Cohen this summer for $9.5 million.

Cohen, a real estate developer in Washington, D.C., who splits his time now between Maine and Florida, took a special interest in the building when he learned it was for sale. Experienced in historic preservation, Cohen said he saw the potential to make a statement as a developer by restoring the building, and also make money by creating premium downtown office and retail space.

Although the building has been renovated, its age dictates lease rates in the $13- to $15-per-square-foot range, a couple of dollars below newer downtown office space. Cohen doesn't want to displace existing tenants, but figures he can get higher rents from newcomers in renovated offices that he envisions above the arcade. That space is largely vacant now, and leasing it will allow Cohen to pay for historic restoration.

It's obvious that Cohen has plenty of work to do.

Historic features weren't valued to those who renovated the space 30 or more years ago. The mezzanine space is now a maze of dark rooms formed by drywall and drop ceilings. Glass that once offered light and a view of the arcade has been walled over. Windows that once looked at the garden behind the home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow are bricked up.

Downstairs, a stained glass window that graced a vaudeville theater at the rear of the arcade is a reminder of the building's glamorous past. During a recent tour, Cohen walked from one end of the arcade to the other, scrambling up stairs and into corners to point out architectural features lost to modern renovation, pulling up a piece of tile to reveal marble flooring.

Old photographs also suggest what the building may once again become.

A black-and-white photograph from the late 1920s shows the arcade soon after the building opened. A later, undated shot shows the arcade at Christmas, with Santa in a sleigh and a group of children playing accordions.

A color photo from the 1950s establishes the arcade as a retail and commerce center, with the Commodore Restaurant and the Frank & Ernest beauty salon, along with Casco Bank and radio station WPOR. At the far end of the arcade, vaudeville had given way to cinema by the 1950s, as illustrated by a neon sign that reads "Civic Theatre." The theater was air conditioned, according to a banner.

Earle Shettleworth Jr. recalls the arcade's movie era. Director of Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Shettleworth grew up in Portland and remembers the arcade lined with specialty shops, including a jewelry store and stamp and coin shop. The theater featured balconies reached by a big staircase, with a large stained-glass window on the landing.

The theater is gone now, although an architecturally significant entrance remains on Preble Street. In a larger sense, Shettleworth said, 477 Congress St. makes an important statement about Portland. It stands next to the former Fidelity Building at 465 Congress St. Now the Maine Bank & Trust Building, it was built in 1909. These were Maine's first two skyscrapers, Shettleworth noted.

"There was the expectation that this was the wave of the future for downtown Portland," he said, noting that it would be another half century before more tall offices would rise in the city.

The building's place in Portland's history also is appreciated by Nancy Barba of Barba Architecture & Preservation.

Barba is working with Cohen on the restoration plans. She will be moving her offices from across Congress Street, to occupy space at the rear of the arcade. The tower at 477 Congress St. and the adjacent, 10-story Maine Bank & Trust building create an architectural edge for Monument Square, Barba noted, and set a tone for development in the downtown.

"There was a sense of pride in commerce," she said, "that someone would undertake such noble buildings."

For Cohen, his modern undertaking to recapture some of that pride must also be based on economics. In the weeks ahead, he will be getting cost estimates for various improvements and renovations. In addition to restoring the arcade, Cohen wants to return the building's Congress Street facade to the way it looked in the 1920s.

Cohen and his partners have invested $9.5 million in 477 Congress St., but Cohen also seems to have contributed some emotional capital. He had the property under contract soon after it came on the market 18 months ago, saw his offer rejected and almost bought another building in the Old Port instead. When subsequent offers on 477 Congress St. fell through, he pursued the deal in earnest.

"This was meant to be," he said, standing in the arcade, "the marriage between me and this building."

Posted Image
Photo by 477 Congress LLC and Barba Architecture & Preservation
The shopping arcade inside the office building at 477 Congress St. (the Time and Temperature Building) has undergone significant architectural change since opening in 1924.


Posted Image
Staff photo by Gordon Chibroski
The mezzanine was covered over to create the space seen today. The building's new owner wants to restore the arcade to recapture its original look.


Posted Image
Time and Temperature Building

From Portland Press Herald


 

#2 tocoto

tocoto

    Hamlet

  • Members+
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 737 posts

Posted 30 November 2003 - 09:03 PM

I have seen the building from the highway. I didn't know it had an arcade. The clock may be a landmark but it is pretty ugly. IMO they should take it down during the renovation. I'm gld this building survived urban renewal and is still around to be rehabbed.

#3 Cotuit

Cotuit

    Megalopolis

  • Members+
  • 13,179 posts

Posted 30 November 2003 - 09:10 PM

The clock is a Portland landmark, like the Citgo sign in Boston. I remember shortly after I moved to Portland seeing the temperature up there reading 100, and shortly before I moved it reading -10. A one-hundred ten degree temperature shift during my time there, and I remember it because of the Time and Temperature Building.

The arcade there is nothing special, as the article notes, but hopefully it'll get a lift from redevelopment.

#4 tocoto

tocoto

    Hamlet

  • Members+
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 737 posts

Posted 02 December 2003 - 12:55 PM

I lived in Portland back when I was a kid in the 1960s. I remeber DT Portand was still a a real commercial area then, but sort of run down. There was no Maine mall or revitalized Old Port then. There were lot's of cobblestone streets, and some of the downtown retail buildings had professional elevator operators still. The sign is a landmark and should probably stay. It is nowhere near as nice as the Citgo sign in Boston, but still a landmark is a landmark.

#5 Scott

Scott

    Hamlet

  • Members+
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 890 posts

Posted 02 December 2003 - 08:31 PM

Portland is definitely under rated. You hear alot about Portsmouths revival but Portand is a cool and funky little city in its own right and is well worth visiting.

I hope this building is able to regain its past glory.

btw- Cotuit, you posted alot of interesting threads recently so it will take time to read and respond appropriately to them.

#6 Cotuit

Cotuit

    Megalopolis

  • Members+
  • 13,179 posts

Posted 03 December 2003 - 06:26 PM

I had a class in the State Theatre Building, and there was an elevator man there. This was 1993... The old Porteous Building is now the downtown campus for the Maine College of Art. It gave a real shot in the arm to Congress Street not to have that giant vacant building in the middle of it any more.

Portland is great, it was on my short list of places to move to from New York (along with Portsmouth and Burlington), Providence won.

#7 tocoto

tocoto

    Hamlet

  • Members+
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 737 posts

Posted 05 December 2003 - 05:38 PM

I remember Porteous, Mitchell, and Braun when I was a kid.

I noticed a time and temp. builidng in Harvard Square today, right across from the subway station. It has the same rectangular clock with lightbulbs making up the digits. I'm sure it has been protected for years. Too bad I didn't have my camera.

#8 Cotuit

Cotuit

    Megalopolis

  • Members+
  • 13,179 posts

Posted 07 December 2003 - 06:09 PM

Crappy picture, but here it is.

Posted Image

From the net, not mine

#9 Phillydog

Phillydog

    Whistle-Stop

  • Members+
  • PipPipPip
  • 394 posts

Posted 11 June 2004 - 09:31 PM

I lived in Portland back when I was a kid in the 1960s. I remeber DT Portand was still a a real commercial area then, but sort of run down. There was no Maine mall or revitalized Old Port then. There were lot's of cobblestone streets, and some of the downtown retail buildings had professional elevator operators still. The sign is a landmark and should probably stay. It is nowhere near as nice as the Citgo sign in Boston, but still a landmark is a landmark.

Not as much of landmark as the Citgo sign, but for people who are real ties to the city the time and temperature sign is irreplaceable!

#10 Phillydog

Phillydog

    Whistle-Stop

  • Members+
  • PipPipPip
  • 394 posts

Posted 11 June 2004 - 09:36 PM

I remember Porteous, Mitchell, and Braun when I was a kid.

I noticed a time and temp. builidng in Harvard Square today, right across from the subway station.  It has the same rectangular clock with lightbulbs making up the digits.  I'm sure it has been protected for years.  Too bad I didn't have my camera.

What ever happened to Porteous??? Was it swallowed up by another company?

Gosh, I miss Portland!

Has anyone ever visited St. Peters Church on Federal Street? How about the Italian Festival and grease pole????

The best grinders I've ever had are still from Amato's (the infamous "Italian Sandwich" - )

Edited by Phillydog, 11 June 2004 - 09:39 PM.


#11 Cotuit

Cotuit

    Megalopolis

  • Members+
  • 13,179 posts

Posted 11 June 2004 - 10:34 PM

Porteous still had a store at the Maine Mall when I lived there in 1993.

However:

Presque Isle Porteous store to close in October

PRESQUE ISLE - The last Porteous department store in New England is closing at the Aroostook Centre Mall in late October (2003), ending 126 years of operation at the department store chain.

From The Bangor News


Sad :(

The Maine College of Art still calls their Congress Street location the Porteous Buiding, so the name lives on.

Posted Image

Posted Image