The New Cape Elizabeth History Center:

Two exciting options for its location

are being considered

The coming year promises to be one of celebrated change for the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society and our plans to create the new Cape Elizabeth History Center.

We are making progress on bringing our search for new home to a close. This will be a home where our volunteer members can significantly expand the society’s programs for Cape Elizabeth residents, young and old. The Center will include Cape Elizabeth’s first-ever Town Museum, as well be home to our growing archival collection of objects, photos and records. These will available to all to research family histories, uncover stories from our past, learn about our town’s contributions to our nation, and to discover statistics dating back to colonial times.

We are currently looking at two exciting options that have been offered by the town.

Option 1: The Old Spurwink Schoolhouse

The Spurwink Schoolhouse next to the Thomas Memorial Library is certainly one intriguing option. The historic schoolhouse is in a perfect location near the center of town, the schools and the library. In March of 2018, the Town Council’s Spurwink School Reuse Committee recommended locating the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society (CEHPS) into the historic building.

William Widgery Thomas, Jr., the library’s namesake, gifted the schoolhouse to the Town of Cape Elizabeth better than a century ago. He dreamed then of establishing “a lighthouse of knowledge” to forever serve residents young and old who were anxious to learn. A plaque honoring this gift hangs amid the debris inside the schoolhouse today.

Serious problems, however, stand as obstacles to our occupying the historic schoolhouse and the more contemporary addition attached to it. The building, which served as the children’s library of the Thomas Memorial Library, became unoccupied in 2016 when the new Thomas Memorial Library was completed. It has remained unoccupied since. The costs of bringing the building to code were already presenting a challenge when, in the fall last year, asbestos tile and mastic was discovered under the aging carpet. The costs, budgeting and work timelines of bringing the building to code and making it environmentally safe are very likely to delay occupancy by 1-2 years.

Option 2: The Bachelor’s Quarters at Fort Williams

We have recently been approached by the town with a second option: the former Bachelor's Quarters (the building closest to Shore Road) at Fort Williams. The Cape Elizabeth History Center at this location will be easily accessible to the Cape Elizabeth residents who frequent the park year-round; and the new town museum is likely to attract many of the million-plus park visitors from around the state, nation and world.

Additionally, the building is located at the heart of the new Cape Community Campus section of the park envisioned by the Fort Williams Master Plan Update adopted by the Town Council in November. This plan calls for dedicating this section of the park for local use, and the re-purposing of the former Officers’ Row buildings “for use by community organizations, creating opportunities for education, and activities for Cape Elizabeth residents.”

While we have heard the building is fully up to code, handicapped accessible, and pretty close to move-in ready, we have not yet had a chance to tour and inspect the building with respect to our needs – but we hope to be able to soon. Once we can determine if the building will work for us, we expect we would be able to move into the building relatively quickly.

Please join us to preserve and promote interest in Cape's fascinating past. Members' benefits include lectures, outings, and the Society's newsletter "The Keeper" which highlights treasures from our archives. The annual membership fee is $15.00, and is due the first of September. Click here for a membership form.