CUMBERLAND — A design for a combined Prince Memorial Library and relocated Cumberland Historical Society building could be ready by late August.

The Town Council on June 3 unanimously accepted a $14,500 design services proposal from Scott Simons Architects. The funds come from reserves set aside for that purpose, according to Town Councilor Tom Gruber.

The project’s ad hoc building committee unanimously recommended the council hire the Portland company, which was one of four firms interviewed, Town Manager Bill Shane said.

The council will vote on a proposal that encompasses the project’s first phase, and the town will “aggressively begin” a fundraising campaign this fall, he said.

“We are truly at the starting line,” Shane noted, adding the committee was due June 4 to meet with Simons.

Gatherings are being planned in the coming months with stakeholders including the historical society, library, and community to “get some input, talk about sizing of rooms and operations, talk about project budgets, and then hopefully package that all up together so that the council can see what is possible.”

The society’s 4 Blanchard Road building, next to the old Town Hall, was built in 1853 as a schoolhouse and sits 0.2 miles from the 266 Main St. library. The Town Council in February authorized the formation of the building committee to explore moving the society building to an undetermined spot on the library property, where the two structures would be connected.

The approximately 1,400-square-foot building and the 0.35 acres on which it sits, both owned by the town, are valued at about $173,000, according to Cumberland’s online assessing database. Minus the building, the land is worth about $93,000.

Shane has said the sale of the land to abutter Sevee & Maher – which operates out of the old Town Hall – should be enough to fund the move and a new foundation for the building on the library property.

An appraisal of the property has been completed, but the figure cannot yet be made public, Councilor Bill Stiles has said.

He and Gruber are that panel’s representatives to the building committee, which meets at Town Hall, 290 Tuttle Road, at 1 p.m. the first and third Mondays of each month.

Funds for other project elements – such as roof repairs and the building’s connection to the library – are to come through the capital campaign, historical society curator and President Carolyn Small said in February.

Those costs could exceed $100,000, and will be determined as the committee does its work, according to Shane.

The society has a trust fund that dates back nearly 50 years from Paul Merrill, a Cumberland resident who owned Merrill Transportation. Small did not divulge how much was left in the fund, but said all of it would go toward the project.

The fundraising and project dovetail well with Cumberland’s 200th birthday celebration, coming up in 2021.

Merrill had envisioned the old schoolhouse’s relocation to the library, so “it’s not a brand-new thought,” Small noted.

Plus, the materials that went into both buildings came from the same place. The bricks used in the library’s original 1850 section were fired in a brickyard in the wooded area behind that structure – as were those used in the schoolhouse.

“In essence, we’re coming back home,” Small said.

Functioning as a schoolhouse until 1952, the building then served as a town office and police station before the historical society occupied it in the 1980s, she recalled.

One of two remaining schoolhouses in Cumberland, the structure’s repairs are estimated by town staff to be “more than six figures,” according to Shane.

Whereas the building, with its historical displays, is only open on a limited basis, its connection to the library – open 45 hours a week – would significantly broaden its exposure, the manager explained.

He imagines the marriage of the two being fruitful, calling the library “the cultural center of Cumberland,” and noting the “abundance of history (owned by the society) that needs to get out on display.”

Simons’ projects have included libraries and historical societies, “and they definitely had a good feel for where we’re going,” Shane said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Cumberland is looking to relocate this 1853 former schoolhouse on Blanchard Road, now home to the town’s historical society, to the nearby Patten Free Library, and connect the two buildings.


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