Urban Moose Building to Receive Façade Restoration

By Lura Jackson

The Calais National Bank building is shown here in a photo from around the early 1930s. The alcove to the left of the entrance housed one of the few outdoor telephones in the area. The building remains largely unchanged, though the entrance has shifted to the side. The Urban Moose now occupies the building, which will be receiving a partial restoration from the Facade grant.

One of the most distinguished buildings of the downtown district will be receiving a partial restoration as part of the Community Development Block Grant program (the Façade grant). Since 1889, the three-story tall Calais National Bank building (now occupied by the Urban Moose on the first floor) has been visually iconic for the Calais downtown, in part because of its high-traffic location at the corner of North and Main Street. 

Originally, the corner was occupied by a single story brick building that housed a few stores such as Thomas Armstrong and Gordon Boots and Shoes. These stores were popular with the sailors that would come into town, giving them a spot to purchase a paper, patent medicines, gloves, and toiletries. In 1889, the lot was purchased with the intention of constructing a bank, and architect E.E. Lewis proceeded to design the building as it now stands.

The first bank to occupy the building was the Calais National Bank, which had a branch on the first floor. The Calais Savings Bank operated just above it on the second floor. Both institutions thrived for many decades until the Great Depression struck the economy in the 1930s. In 1934 Calais National Bank stopped printing money and went into receivership, and in the 1940s it was purchased by Merrill Lynch Bank and Trust. During this time period, the entrance was relocated from the corner to the side of the building where it is located presently. Merrill Lynch remained at the location for several decades until the branch was bought by Bangor Savings Bank (which then moved up North Street). The building changed private ownership a few more times, eventually becoming the retail outlet, the Urban Moose. 

While the building remains largely intact, several factors have taken their toll on it, including periods of neglect and a fire in 1902 that destroyed the upper story. By the 1990s the roof had deteriorated to the point that excessive water leaked in from it, prompting the current owner (Britani Holloway) to replace it. Loose masonry along the upper story and the arches over the windows continues to be a primary concern for safety and aesthetic reasons. The Façade grant funds will be mainly allotted to the repair and repointing of the brickwork of the building.

Totaling $200,000, the Façade grant contributes up to $25,000 to each selected project in exchange for a 50% match by the owner of the building. The grant is specifically intended to aid in the preservation of historical downtown Calais. For the Calais National Bank building, the funds will help to ensure that the elegant brick building will remain a respectable centerpiece of the business district for decades to come.

With thanks to the St. Croix Historical Society for materials.