A week after part of the outer wall collapsed, a construction team has been assessing damage to the Wawenock Block, a fixture of Wiscasset’s Main Street for more than a century. No one was injured when bricks from the second story came crashing down, covering the sidewalk April 3.
“We feel optimistic that the immediate public safety concerns have been addressed and abated. Given the original collapse, however, we’re keeping a very close eye on everything,” wrote Ralph Doering III of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, the building’s owner. Doering’s statement was released Friday afternoon, April 9 in an email forwarded to Wiscasset Newspaper from Mark Robinson of MainePR. Robinson stated he is serving as spokesman for Doering.
Doering’s statement noted work is underway to fully stabilize the three-story, 1858 brick building to eliminate any safety and structural concerns. “I don’t have a timeframe yet, but I have made it clear that I want this done as soon as possible,” he wrote.
David McDonald of DLM Corporation in Portland is the general contractor, according to Robinson. Workers fenced off the area in front of the building, leaving part of the sidewalk open. Piles of bricks and mortar remained on the sidewalk from when the facade crumbled and fell around 3 p.m. April 3. A smaller section of brickwork fell the next day.
“Once again, I wish I had a better answer as to ‘when.’ We just won’t know until the professionals finish their work,” stated Doering. He added, he was working closely with town officials and updating them daily on the progress.
“With safety measures under control, my biggest worry right now is my tenants. This has hit them the hardest. I’m really concerned about the family in the apartment next door. That’s at 75 Main St. As a safety precaution staying in that space is just not tenable,” Doering continued. “I have been paying for them to stay in a hotel or motel, but a permanent solution is required. We have one open apartment in Damariscotta and I offered it rent-free for April and May. They declined, and were very gracious about it, but it just doesn’t fit their needs,” he stated.
Doering said he is reimbursing the tenants for lodging, refunding their April rent and also their security deposit. “I will also be giving them a cash stipend to cover expenses. “It’s a lousy situation for anybody to be in, but unfortunately the building will not be considered habitable for an undetermined period of time,” wrote Doering.
Doering stated he is also concerned about his two commercial tenants, Wiscasset Bay Gallery and wine bar In a Silent Way. Wiscasset Bay Gallery, which opened in 1985, is owned and operated by Keith and Cordelia Oehmig. Last summer, Chandler Sowden and Zach Goodwin of Boothbay opened In a Silent Way. There are currently no commercial tenants on the building’s second floor which for many years was home to a barber shop.
“I know there’s a lot of concern in the downtown community for them. We’ll do our best to help them out,” wrote Doering.
Reached for comment, Wiscasset Town Manager Dennis Simmons said he did not know if the falling bricks caused any damage to the sidewalk. “The debris needs to be cleared to know for sure,” he wrote in an email to the newspaper. Simmons said metal sidewalk benches owned by the town were undamaged and had been removed.
“We have been in constant contact with Mr. Doering. He has been very responsive right from the start, especially to my concern for public safety,” stated Simmons. “We were very lucky this happened in early April and not August.”