Bowery Beach School

1855, altered 1985, Greek Revival | 11 Wheeler Road, Cape Elizabeth | Nominated to Places in Peril in 2017

SIGNIFICANCE

The Bowery Beach School, located at the intersection of Wheeler and Ocean House Roads (formerly Maxwell Road) was built in 1855 to accommodate students for the newly-developed Cape Elizabeth 9th School District.  The building remained the Bowery Beach School until 1930, when dwindling attendance made the transportation of remaining rural students to a larger school necessary. Once the school closed, Cape Elizabeth sold the school to the Ladies Union which renamed the building Crescent Lodge. In 1983, the Ladies Union sold the building to the current owner, Cape Elizabeth Lions Club.

The property was named a significant property in the 1999 Cape Elizabeth Historic Resources Survey conducted by Barba + Wheelock Architecture and Preservation. This is one of the last remaining schoolhouses that characterizes the bygone era of one room schoolhouses in the Cape Elizabeth/Portland region. 

Unlike other former one-room school buildings in the town and surrounding areas, this building has been located on its site since its construction in 1855. The building contains most of its original features and architecture; and its materials, design, workmanship, feeling, and setting are intact. Existing Greek Revival exterior details and materials remain intact in near original condition, including the historic clapboard siding with corner boards. Two historic entrance doors are located on the front façade; one for girls and one for boys.  

The Lions Club is seeking eligibility for listing the building on the National Register of Historic Places to aid their awareness-building and fundraising efforts

THREAT

The current owner’s nonprofit charter requires that proceeds from fundraising activities be dedicated 100% to charities, leaving very limited opportunities for funding building repair and maintenance needs. A structural assessment has found that the building’s foundation is sound, but framing needs repair from rot and rodent activity.  While an enthusiastic group of volunteers have been making initial repairs, the organization’s lack of funding threatens their ability to own and maintain the clubhouse, putting its future at risk.

OPPORTUNITY

Several opportunities exist to protect the Bowery Beach Schoolhouse:

1.       Growing community awareness to help gain financial support to preserve the former schoolhouse;

2.       Considering additional uses for the building that could raise additional income to support its long term preservation. Such uses could include a living museum to showcase Maine’s historic schoolhouse history, an event hall that could be rented for special events, or a space to hold educational programs for the community.

3.       Forming a Friends group, with a separate charter and nonprofit status, to help raise funds for needed repairs and improvements.

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