2016-01-08 / Community

Town House School preservation heats up

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

In an Oct. 25 signing held at the Pasco Center in Kennebunkport, the Kennebunkport Historical Society inked a deal with the new nonprofit, Friends of the Town House School, giving the group until October to raise the $350,000 need to save the old one-room schoolhouse located at 135 North Road. Pictured at the signing are KHS officers Al Black (seated) and Peter Whalen, and from FOTTHS, Mary Susan Leahy (standing), and Luverne Preble Tinkham. (Courtesy photo)

In an Oct. 25 signing held at the Pasco Center in Kennebunkport, the Kennebunkport Historical Society inked a deal with the new nonprofit, Friends of the Town House School, giving the group until October to raise the $350,000 need to save the old one-room schoolhouse located at 135 North Road. Pictured at the signing are KHS officers Al Black (seated) and Peter Whalen, and from FOTTHS, Mary Susan Leahy (standing), and Luverne Preble Tinkham. (Courtesy photo)

KENNEBUNKPORT — The temperatures may be falling outside, but in Kennebunkport enthusiasm is heating up efforts to save the old Town House School on North Street.

In May, members of the Kennebunkport Historical Society voted to tear down the 115-year-old building, the last remaining one-room schoolhouse in town.

The schoolhouse has been in society hands since 1955 – it closed as a school in 1951 – and was the group’s first headquarters, but had fallen into disrepair in recent decades as attention and limited funding shifted to other sites. Bracing was needed during the winter of 2014 to keep the building from collapsing, and the presence of mold made it seem too much trouble to preserve.

But in late August, just days before the building was due to come down, the society granted a stay of execution, agreeing not to swing the wrecking ball until next fall if Luverne Preble Tinkham and her peers can put together the funding needed to rehabilitate the aging structure.

The reprieve came in large part from the efforts of Preble Tinkham, a Cape Porpoise resident who organized opposition to the demolition and, when initially rebuffed, simply refused to take no for an answer.

Preble Tinkham rallied support, secured a pair of anonymous $50,000 pledges, along with other donations, to protect the building, and helped found The Friends of the Town House School, becoming its chairman.

“We’re now a domestic nonprofit State of Maine corporation,” she said last week. “We also have received our 501(C)3 from the IRS before the end of 2015 so we may accept tax-deductible gifts.”

In October, society trustees signed an agreement with FOTTHS, giving it one year, until October 2016, to raise the $350,000 needed to save the schoolhouse.

With that goal in mind, the group has laid out an ambitious fundraising schedule. According to FOTTHS member Sharon Lichter Cummins, planned events include:

 Feb. 3 – Worthy Wednesday at David’s KPT. “The dinner is gifted from The Kennebunkport Inn,” Preble Tinkham said.

 Feb. 19 – Chowder Supper at Atlantic Hall. “The hall is donated to us along with kitchen helpers,” Preble Tinkham said.

 March 17 – Dock Square history slide show titled “Tour of the Port past to present,” upstairs at Alisson’s Restaurant.

 April or May (date TBA) – History of Town House Corners slideshow.

 June (date TBA) – Jazz picnic at the Nonantum Resort.

“I’d also like to add that we are about halfway to our goal of raising $350,000, but we still need help getting to the finish line,” Lichter Cummins said. “Robert Zuke builders and Tim Spang have donated their services, equipment and some materials to make the schoolhouse stable and Kate Dermody of Bagala Window Works has volunteered to restore the old windows.

“We will need to bring access and facilities into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and take care of the mold situation, as well as do some landscaping to divert water from the building so the mold will not return,” Lichter Cummins said. “We also need to fund an endowment of $150,000 to ensure the building will continue to be maintained after all the work is done.

“It’s a big job but I think we’ve got this,” she added.

“We are blessed to have many folks believe in what we are trying to accomplish,” Preble Tinkham said.

Wm. Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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