Former staff and students entered the former Nathan Clifford School in Portland seeking memories Saturday morning.

They left clutching old globes, tattered American flags and folding wooden auditorium chairs that held generations of students before the historic elementary school closed three years ago.

About 50 people responded to an invitation from the building’s redevelopers to take away the old desks and other items left behind when the school on Falmouth Street closed in February 2011. It was like old home day for many of those who showed up, greeting old colleagues and friends.

“I am not sure what I want to take,” said Carol Mikkelsen of Portland, whose children and grandchildren attended the school.

Looking around the former principal’s office, complete with fireplace and removable brass andirons, Mikkelsen settled on a solitary birch log from a pile on the hearth.

The building was designed by Portland architect John Calvin Stevens, whose late 19th and early 20th century buildings dot the Maine countryside. The 1909 building, designated a historic landmark by the city, is scheduled to reopen as a 22-unit apartment building in December.


The building was left just as it was when it closed. School lunch menus from 2011 remained tacked to bulletin boards, ancient TV monitors still squatted on Formica desks, and the edges of yellowed student artwork and papers on display curled against peeling wall paint.

“We were told to just leave anything,” said Anne Marie Haskell of Portland, a former special education technician at the school.

Cheryl Shuttleworth of Portland, a 25-year special education teacher, said she knew exactly what she wanted to take home: the table where she and her colleagues met every day to discuss work and eat lunch.

“This is where we ate, laughed and cried every day,” she said.

She said she planned to put the blond wooden table, circa 1950, somewhere in her house.

“And I will invite all the people who used to sit around it to come for lunch again,” she said.


Alice Levesque of Portland took photos of the empty halls where she, her mother and uncle all attended school.

“That was Miss Concannon’s room. She taught fifth grade and was very strict. If you didn’t hold your pen correctly, whoosh,” she said, imitating the sound of a ruler hitting flesh.

Daniel Baker, 13, of Portland unearthed a vintage Apple computer.

“It belonged to my third-grade teacher, Miss Demers,” said Daniel, who was a student at the school when it closed.

Laura Reading, development associate with the Developers Collaborative of Portland, which is revamping the building into apartments with rents ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 a month, called the scene “organized looting.”

She said people seemed genuinely pleased to take away child-sized chairs and desks.

Reading said many items remained after Saturday’s two-hour session. The company may issue another invitation to the public before construction starts Feb. 14, she said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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