Restoration work has started on the Town House School, the last one-room schoolhouse in Kennebunkport. SUBMITTED PHOTO

KENNEBUNKPORT — In some ways, preserving a historical building is a direct link for future residents to the past and that’s the goal of the Kennebunkport Historical Society’s efforts to restore the Town House School.

Renovation work on the Town House School, the last one-room schoolhouse in Kennebunkport, began earlier this month. The $450,000 project is spearheaded by The Friends of Town House School group, part of the Kennebunkport Historical Society.

For the past four years, the Friends have held art auctions, dinners and other fundraising events to help save the historic structure, which was in imminent danger of collapse.

Built in 1900 and still standing at the corner of North Street and Walkers Lane in Kennebunkport, the schoolhouse was the center of education for many rural students in Kennebunkport in the early 20th century. It is the last remaining structure of 14 small schoolhouses that criss-crossed southern Maine and is situated on a lot that once included the Kennebunkport Town Hall, the town’s first church and its first train station.

After the Town House School ceased to function as a school in 1950, the building was acquired by the Kennebunkport Historical Society and used to house an extensive collection of town memories, educational and historical community records, photographs, and original paperwork that dates to when the school first opened.

It remained open to the public for research until 2015 when it was closed following an inspection by a structural engineering firm that determined the building was unsafe and contained black mold in the walls.

At that point, members of the historical society voted to tear down the Town House School because of the cost involved to rebuild and maintain the antiquated structure. That decision left many Kennebunkport residents wondering what could be done to save the historical building and it led to the creation of the Friends of Town House School group and the launch of a major fundraising initiative to preserve and maintain the schoolhouse.

Students gather outside the Town House School in Kennebunkport early in the 20th century. SUBMITTED PHOTO

“We are truly delighted to take this project to the next level,” said Kirsten Camp, executive administrator of the Kennebunkport Historical Society. “The initial focus is on pouring a new foundation and stabilizing the structure.”

Camp said local contractor Gary Martin has been hired to perform the restoration work.

“It was especially important to us that we award the work to a local company as this is a story of our community,” Camp said.

Once fully restored, plans call for the Town House School to housing meetings, presentations, and receptions and to offer the community a “living history” dedicated to studying, appreciating and learning about the history of Kennebunkport.

“We are deeply grateful for the dedicated efforts of The Friends group as well as the wonderful generosity of many in the community who helped raise funds for this project,” Camp said. “We look forward to welcoming everyone to the reopening in 2019.”

To help prepare for the when the building does open again, the Friends of Town House School is actively seeking graphics and memorabilia which can be placed in the renovated Town House School and is asking those who attended the school to share their memories with FTHS historians who can archive their memories of the facility.

Those who attended Town House School and have memories to share are asked to contact Luverne Preble Tinkham at 967-3352. In addition, donations to help maintain the Town House School once it has been restored can be sent to FTHS, P.O. Box 7, Kennebunkport, ME, 04046.

The Kennebunkport Historical Society is a nonprofit member-supported organization established in 1952 with the purpose of preserving and presenting the history, art and culture of Kennebunkport. To learn more, visit KennebunkportHistoricalSociety.com.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 or by email at [email protected]

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