KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — Three years after the Friends of the Town House School began raising money to save a part of the town’s history, a local builder has been awarded the contract to begin the painstaking process of restoring the 118-year-old historic school building.
Friends of the Town House School, in cooperation with the Kennebunkport Historical Society, which owns the schoolhouse, signed a contract to hire Gary E. Martin, who will begin work on the project as soon as the final permits from the town are issued.
Barbara Barwise, who represents the Friends of Town House School on the combined Building Committee, said the town permits are slated to be issued in the next few weeks. Martin will start by lifting the building and installing a new foundation so interior work can be completed over the winter.
Barwise said they hope to keep as much of the restoration as authentic as possible, right down to a new foundation made out of granite, like the original. The rebuild will have to meet current building codes, and be ADA compliant, and the full extent of the decay and damage won’t be known until the work begins, she said. Barwise also said they will be installing some modern conveniences, such as a warming kitchen and appliances to make the facility more usable.
The Kennebunkport Historical Society owns the property, and in June of 2015, citing extensive decay, structural damage, and prohibitive costs involved in rebuilding and maintaining the building, the board of directors voted to tear down the building.
A group of nine impassioned volunteers, led by Luverne Preble Tinkham, a Kennebunkport resident whose family had attended the school for generations, formed Friends of Town House School in an effort to raise money through private donations to save the school.
Last March, the group announced it has raised over $425,000 needed to save the iconic school on the corner of North Street and Walkers Lane, and an agreement was signed with the historical society to move forward with the rehabilitation project.
The building committee — made up of Sandra Severance and Barbara Barwise from the Friends of Town House School, and historical society board of directors members Dana Dakers and John Zimmerman — signed the contract on Oct. 30 to hire Martin and start the long awaited project.
Barwise said the group’s efforts were successful because of the “dedication and superb support from people and friends who have donated.”
“Maintaining the school house on its original lot is so important,” Barwise said. “I think it’s going to be a wonderful asset for the historical society.”
Right now, the historical society has the Benson Blacksmith Shop, the Clark Shipyard Office, and the fish shack/art studio of artist Louis D. Norton, all located near the Pasco Center at Town House Corner.
“So much of Kennebunkport’s history is represented there, and the school house will be a wonderful addition to the collection,” Barwise said.
Fundraising continues not only for the rehabilitation, but also for the endowment needed to maintain the building once it is rebuilt.
The third annual Christmas Dinner fundraiser hosted by the Friends of Town House School is planned for Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the Kennebunk Inn.
It will be both a fundraiser and a thank you, Barwise said. For tickets and information, please contact Barbara Barwise 207-967-5253 or Judy Hyotte 207 467 3357. Donations toward the school can also be mailed to: FTHS , PO Box 7, Kennebunkport ME. 04046.