Back at the very beginning of the COVID pandemic in mid-March 2020, I had a short-notice call from my colleague Amy Cole Ives at Sutherland Conservation and Consulting about the HABS/HAER photography of the Machine Tool Lab at the University of Maine at Orono. This little Art Deco gem in the middle of the campus was built in 1934, but was slated for demolition. In the uncertainty at that time, Amy asked if I could get up there quickly to do the large-format photography for the Maine Historic Building Record. Campus leaders were then looking into closing the campus to all visitors, and it was unclear when I might be able to do the work if I didn’t move quickly. Days later, having ordered a few boxes of Kodak TMAX 400, I was on my way to Orono.
This is a fantastic, elegant, small-scale building, one story tall with an E-shaped footprint. Each of the three wings originally featured a different function for engineering students to learn. The building had a pattern shop where wooden patterns could be made, a foundry and forge, and a machine shop. Most of the building had been cleared out in preparation for the demolition, but a few of the machines in the machine shop wing remained.
I again collaborated on this project with my colleague Scott Hanson, now with MacRostie Historic Advisors LLC, who prepared the historic narrative. As soon as COVID shutdowns eased, I was able to get back to the darkroom to make the final documentation package.
For those who might be interested in learning more about this building, the University of Maine prepared a short video about its history, available here.