Skip Maine state header navigation

Agencies | Online Services | Help

Skip First Level Navigation | Skip All Navigation

Home > Grants > Capital Needs of Maine's Historic Properties, Results of the 2004 Survey

Capital Needs of Maine's Historic Properties

Results of the 2004 Survey


More than twenty years have passed since Maine Citizens for Historic Preservation (now Maine Preservation) sought, in collaboration with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, to identify the capital needs of the state's historic properties open to the public. The results of that survey, which were released in May of 1982 in a report titled "Window to the Future: A Plan for Maine's Historic Properties," identified a capital need of $1.75 million among 105 properties. In the spring of 2004 the Commission and Maine Preservation initiated another survey with the same purpose. This time, more than 250 respondents reported back with an aggregate need of over $44 million.

The 1982 study was undertaken in part because of the precipitous decline in federal appropriations from the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) to support preservation programs in the states, as well as the elimination of development projects from the list of allowable activities that could be supported by such funds. Bolstered by the survey data, Maine Citizens and the Commission embarked on an effort to secure a state bond to address the identified need. The initial lack of support from the voters was overcome in 1985 when a $2 million General Fund Bond was successfully passed. Over the course of the next four years these bond funds supported 138 capital improvement projects.

Since 1989, funding for development projects has been limited or non-existent. Although the Legislature appropriated $31,250 to continue the program at a very modest level in fiscal year 1990, the emerging State budget cutbacks forced a nearly one-third reduction in those funds. Subsequent attempts in 1990 and 1991 to obtain additional bond funding failed at the voting booth. At the same time, while the federal regulations once again permitted the funding of this type of activity, Congressional allocations from the HPF to the States remained, with the exception of fiscal year 2001, at levels that did not enable the reactivation of the development program.[1] To address funding needs throughout the cultural community, in 1999 the Maine Legislature appropriated $3.2 million to the New Century Community Program, of which $572,000 was allocated to the Commission for survey and development projects. Approximately $500,000 of the General Fund money was distributed among 49 development projects, and that in turn leveraged over $1.4 million in private matching dollars. A subsequent appropriation to the New Century program provided an additional $132,500, which was awarded in 2002 to 20 projects.[2]


In March of 2004 a four-page survey form was mailed to over 1,000 non-profit organizations, educational institutions and public libraries, as well as county and municipal governments throughout the state. This survey sought detailed information about the extent of the known capital needs for historic properties under their stewardship, and the nature of that need. The survey form was also posted on the Commission's and Maine Preservation's websites. A copy of the form is attached in Appendix A.

Although the majority of Maine's historic places are privately owned, the survey audience was narrowed to those properties that met the Commission's long standing criteria for publicly funded pre-development, development, and acquisition activities.[3] These properties:

  1. are, or will be, open to the public;
  2. are listed in or are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and
  3. are owned by state agencies, county governments, municipal governments, educational institutions, and private non-profit institutions as defined by the Internal Revenue Service.[4]

The survey form was designed to obtain a broad range of information about the respondent's historic property. Information was sought about the property type, its National Register status, the nature of the capital needs and the priority and estimated cost of those needs, a description of the reports, surveys, or condition assessments that have been made of the property, the annual visitation rates, the existence of maintenance funds or endowments, and the annual expenses for operations.


Each of Maine's sixteen counties are represented in the survey, although the number of individual responses varies widely from 8 in Androscoggin County to 29 in York County. Of the 256 returned surveys, 239 reported on building preservation needs, 20 provided information about historic landscapes, and 4 pertained to archaeological sites.[5] The breakdown of reported need by county is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.


Reported Need


Reported Need



































More than 50% of the respondents to the survey were non-profit organizations, with the bulk of the remainder comprised of municipalities. Of the total need reported by non-profits and municipalities, more than $23 million is required for building repairs, whereas approximately $4.5 million is necessary to make their facilities accessible to the disabled. The preservation of archaeological sites and cultural landscapes as well as a variety of other needs comprise the balance of the total amount.

In addition to ascertaining the level of capital needs for historic properties in Maine, the survey sought to gather information about the existence and size of trusts or endowments that are specifically dedicated to the maintenance of these properties. Roughly one-third of the respondents indicated that endowments had been established for this purpose. Nearly one-half of them were valued at $50,000 or less, with the balance ranging from $100,000 to $1 million.

Finally, because the target audience was comprised of historic properties that are generally open to the public, the survey asked respondents to indicate the level of annual visitation to their facilities, and to identify whether those visitors were from Maine or elsewhere. Of those respondents who provided a figure, the combined number of visitors to these historic properties was 1,744, 213 persons, of which 948,792 were Maine residents.


The 2004 survey revealed that among the 256 respondents, more than $40 million in capital needs exists at Maine's historic properties. These needs range from critical structural repairs that threaten the very existence of the resources, to the design and construction of facilities that enable these historic places to be accessible to all members of the public. In addition to the identification of capital needs, the survey revealed an equally important body of information; namely the extent to which historic properties serve the public. Among their many roles, historic properties are used as town halls and public libraries, they house the collections of historical societies and museums, they serve as public performance spaces, and in the case of historic sites they are used to interpret our history.

The Commission and Maine Preservation wish to thank all of those who responded to the survey.

[1] With a change in the regulations, Certified Local Governments have been able to submit grant applications to the Commission for pre-development, development, and acquisition projects.

[2] In addition to those entities that had been eligible to apply in the past for General Fund Bond preservation grants, the New Century Program extended eligibility to privately owned historic barns. However, because of the indeterminate number and locations of these properties, and the fact that they are not typically open to the public, the 2004 survey did not include this>

[3] Pre-development and development projects involve the restoration or preservation of buildings, structures and sites. Acquisition projects obtain full fee-simple title or less than full fee-simple title to an historic property.

[4] See note 2.

[5] The discrepancy between the total number of surveys and number of properties is due to the fact that several survey forms reported on more than one resource type associated with one property.