2016-11-04 / Front Page

Market has new look

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

A long vacant piece of property at 423 Black Point Road across from Scarborough Beach State Park where beachgoers use to buy fish, seafood and in later years sandwiches has received a breath of new life.

This summer Marvin Gates, a contemporary artist from New York City, will open Harmon’s Market Contemporary Art Gallery on site.

According to Rodney Laughton’s “Scarborough in the Twentieth Century,” the building, which most recently housed White Caps Sandwich Shop, was built in the late 1930s by Clint and Olivia Harmon and operated as Harmon’s Market, a seasonal fish market.

Groceries were added in the mid-1940s after Clint and Olivia’s son John and his wife, Thelma, took over management.

Gates first became familiar with the property in the 1950s and 1960s when he would pass by it on the way to visit his grandfather, who lived on Prouts Neck.

“The market here, as a boy growing up, always meant you were just about to get to your grandfather’s house,” Gates said.

He became familiarized with the building again in June 2013 when he and his wife was on their way to Prouts Neck for their niece’s wedding. At that point, however, the building, which was listed for sale, was in a much different shape than he remembers it being in his youth. The walls were bowing and the concrete block foundation had cracks in it.

“It was loved, but it had not been maintained in all those years,” he said.

Still, Gates saw promise in the property and purchased it in September 2013.

“Being an artist, my wife is used to me passing old derelict buildings and saying that would make a nice studio or art gallery. Because of the location and fondness for the area, we decided to go for it,” Gates said.

Gates, however, needed to work with the town to make his vision a reality because the property didn’t meet today’s codes and sits in the rural farming zone, which prohibits retail businesses.

“The property was pretty much non-conforming in almost every way. The lot size was non-conforming. It was very small. In the RF zone you need two acres. The commercial business was non-conforming,” Town Planner Dan Bacon said.

The zone does, however, permit residential uses, farming uses, among others, including golf courses like the Prouts Neck Country Club next door or day camps such as Camp Ketcha, which is located a short drive away from Gates’ property. A number of other uses, such as home occupations, are allowed per special approval by the zoning board of appeals.

The existing building was too forgone to renovate, so Gates built a new building on the site and “kept the look of the building as much as much like the old building as possible.” The building is complete with a modern version of the old Harmon’s Market sign.

To meet the home occupation provision, Gates said the front 400 square feet of the building will be used as a contemporary art gallery, which will showcase art made on site. The rest of the building will be his private residence.

Bacon applauds the effort calling it “a really nice outcome for that site” and a use that “tips its hat to the history of the property having a small retail business in it.

“They were tickled that we were taking a derelict building that everybody enjoyed, keeping it going and adding on to it. The town has been very good and instrumental in making this happen,” Gates said.

The business, Bacon said, recently got its certificate of occupancy. Gates said he is planning to open the art gallery by next summer.

Gates, who has lived in New York most of his artistic career, calls himself a contemporary artist. His latest project is Art Barbara, a 1,000 pound steel art gallery that spent several years traveling around New York City.

“I would imagine what I do in Maine will have the influence of place in it,” he said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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