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McDonald's opens in historic home

By
ARTHUR FREDERICK

FREEPORT, Maine -- McDonald's wanted to convert an historic mansion into a restaurant badly enough that it agreed to install a smoke filtering system, build a stockade fence on one side and make sure all deliveries are made during daylight.

The thing that went down hard, company officials said Monday, was the local Board of Appeals' prohibition against a drive-through window.

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'The board said we couldn't have one, so we don't have one,' said Doug Quagliaroli, McDonald's director of operations. 'But I think it would benefit the community.'

It would also benefit McDonald's, since the company estimates that a drive-through window usually accounts for 30 percent of its revenue.

McDonald's might need the drive-through to pay for the new restaurant, a state-of-the-art hamburger palace built inside the 150-year-old Greek Revival home on Main Street.

Officials wouldn't reveal the cost of the new restaurant, but it contains original stenciling on the walls, mahogany tables and chairs and cherry wainscoting.

Residents were concerned last year when it became known that a local dentist had sold the historic Gore House to McDonald's. A group which called itself the Freeport Mac Attack was formed to oppose the plan.

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The group claimed that a fast food outlet should be located in a commercial area, not in a residential neighborhood. They said the restaurant would cause traffic congestion, noise problems and might even attract rats.

But the local board of appeals decided in favor of McDonald's, and the Freeport Mac Attack's opposition withered.

McDonald's was able to diffuse much of the opposition by promising to build an unusual McDonald's that would include a restored Gore House, complete with mahogany furniture, original paintings by Maine artists and no golden arches, the company's symbol.

McDonald's conducted private tours of the new restaurant Monday prior to today's official opening. Part of the newly constructed restaurant contains fairly typical fast-food seating, but two front rooms contain mahogany tables and chairs, original stenciling, wall-to-wall carpeting an even an expensive-looking vase on a small table.

'What we did was restore the Gore House externally, and we tried to restore the interior as best we could and still provide usable floor space for dining,' said architect John Weinrich, whose firm, Weinrich and Woodward Associates of Brunswick, handled the design work on the new restaurant.

The Gore House was built in the 1850s by William Gore, a successful Freeport merchant. Weinrich said McDonald's was concerned that the design be carried out in a way that would not disturb the lines of the house.

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'For the most part it's a nice looking building, they've done a good job,' said Cooper, the neighbor across the street. 'But it's still a McDonald's, still a commercial enterprise in a residential area, and we still have to wait to see what happens.'

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