KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — The grassroots group Friends of the Town House School has raised over $425,000 needed to save the 118-year-old historic school on the corner of North Street and Walkers Lane, and an agreement has been signed with the Kennebunkport Historical Society to move forward with the rehabilitation project this spring.
John Zimmerman, treasurer for the historical society, said the joint building committee made up of himself and fellow historical society board member Dana Dakers and Friends of the Town House School (FTHS) volunteers Barbara Barwise and Sandy Severance “hammered out an implementation agreement so everyone is on board and the rehabilitation of the school is moving forward.”
Kirsten Camp, executive administrator for the historical society, said the Town House School project is a “stepping stone for the (historical society) board to get some new and exciting projects underway.”
“We’re very excited about having that property in tip top shape and open to the community for events,” she said.
In 2015, an inspection conducted by a structural engineering firm found the structure to be unsafe and black mold was discovered inside the walls. The archives were moved out of the building and it was closed immediately in February of that year. A bracing structure was put into place inside the west wall to keep it from collapsing. An exterior support that can still be seen today, was also erected to shore up the wall from the outside and brace against winter snow load.
In June of 2015, citing extensive decay, structural damage, and prohibitive costs involved in rebuilding and maintaining the building, the board of directors for the historical society voted to tear down the building.
Following the vote, Luverne Preble Tinkham, 83, a Kennebunkport resident whose family had attended the school for generations gave an impassioned plea to the historical society to save the historic building.
Her efforts launched the formation of the FTHS committee, a group of nine impassioned volunteers who have worked for the past three years to raise funds for the restoration project.
Judy Hyotte, a member of committee said once the school is restored “it will be used to house meetings, presentations and receptions while providing our community with a living history dedicated to studying, appreciating and learning the history of Kennebunkport.”
Hyotte said, “It’s just so exciting to finally get to this stage. Barbara and Sandy along with John Zimmerman and Dana Dakers make up the joint building committee and they’ve done so much to get this project to this point. It’s very exciting to be moving forward and to all be on the same page.”
The school has provided many memories for the community, and the volunteers who worked to raise the funds to save it are thrilled that it will continue to serve the community after the restoration project is complete.
In a press release, the group noted that in the early days of Town House School the boys entered through one door and the girls another, with one teacher teaching all of the grades at the same time. And it wasn’t until after World War II that the teacher, or “school marm” could be married.
The Friends of the Town House School group is looking for graphics and memorabilia that can be displayed in the schoolhouse, and they are also seeking those who attended the school to share memories with historians who can archive the verbal history of the school.
People with either memorabilia or memories to share should contact Tinkham at (207) 967-3352.
Donations are still needed to complete the project, furnish the school and fund the endowment to run and maintain the school. The next fundraiser will be a fashion show sponsored by Carla’s Corner in Kennebunkport in June, according to Hyotte. Details are still being finalized by the group.
Donations can also be mailed to: FTHS, PO Box 7, Kennebunkport, ME, 04046.
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