Arsonists destroy piece of Casco history

PIECE OF HISTORY LOST – Now boarded up, the Raymond-Casco Historical Society’s Old School House was burnt early Sunday morning. The fire was caused by arsonists, who have been arrested. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO – A pair of arsonists started the fire that ultimately destroyed the 150-year-old Old School House in Casco.

The fire, which happened early Sunday morning, altered plans to move the historical building closer to the Raymond-Casco Historical Society Museum located on land off Roosevelt Trail.

The schoolhouse is located in Casco Village, almost immediately behind the Casco Public Library and in the vicinity of the Casco Community Center.

“It was moved from Quaker Ridge in the 1970’s. The early ‘70’s was when the historical society was formed. It was given to the historical society by the Leona Edwards family,” said Pam Grant, a longtime Casco resident who is the curator of the museum in South Casco.

The Friends School House “was beautiful old building. It is so sad. It is devastating because you cannot replace it. It doesn’t matter if it was a school bell that was original or a flyer, it is priceless and it cannot be replaced,” Grant said.

SUSPECT Edward Scott

“Tim and Rose Symonds were the curators. They loved it as well,” she said.

“I was up there yesterday (Tuesday), and it is just so sad,” she said.

According to Casco’s Assistant Fire Chief Holly Hancock, the fire was called in at 5:15 a.m. on Sunday.

“When we got there, it was fully engulfed,” she said.

The Casco Fire Department received mutual aid from the Naples and Otisfield fire departments. The firefighting crews were able to stop the fire in under an hour, but the building was already a loss, Hancock said.

“The building – it is still standing. But, the entire interior is lost. All the historical artifacts and records were burnt,” she said. “No firefighters entered the building because it was deemed unsafe.”

Although the fire was put out within an hour, “there were crews there until 1 p.m., checking for hot spots.”

The State Fire Marshall’s Office “was called, and they investigated it and found clues and eventually found the individuals who started it,” Hancock said.

SUSPECT Devin Richardson-Gurney

Edward Scott, 20, of Casco, and Devin Richardson-Gurney, 22, also of Casco, were arrested and transported to Cumberland County Jail, according to a press release. They were charged with arson and aggravated criminal mischief.

Hancock said the two men also allegedly vandalized the library, tearing siding off the building. They had been on the library’s roof, she said. The pair gained access to the roof by a ladder that had been left there because crews had been doing roof repair, she said.

Hancock said it was fortunate that the fire did not spread to the library or the red barn that houses everything for Casco Days.

“The red barn wasn’t touched. That would have been our worst nightmare. All our rides, all our Casco days stuff” would have been lost if the conditions had been different, Hancock said.

By Monday, the schoolhouse was boarded up, preventing anyone from going inside the hazardous building, according to Casco Town Manager Dave Morton.

On Tuesday, the schoolhouse was the topic at the Casco Board of Selectmen meeting. It was discussed prior to the meeting, and it was also on the agenda.

“Before the tragic events of this weekend, the selectmen wanted to give money to the historical society to move the building,” Morton said. “Now, the whole project has changed.”

“What they want to do is to build a replica down on the South Casco campus,” Morton said, referring to the Route 302 museum.

“Do we want to put the money for relocating toward building a replica,” he asked the selectmen.

“At this point, we are drafting a warrant article,” Morton said, suggesting that the same dollar amount be applied toward construction at the new location.

Therefore, the wording of the warrant article would be changed, he said.

The Historical Society carried insurance for the school house, Morton said.

“They are trying to figure out their position with the insurance company. And, we think it covers the demolition,” Morton said. Although using it burn training for the local fire department was discussed, that will not happen. The town may want to use the foundation in the future and that would jeopardize the integrity of the concrete, he said.

He commended the historical society for dealing with what is now a public safety hazard.

“They were prompt to secure the building. We mentioned it was open. Within an hour, they had plywood on the building,” he said.

The historical society plans to meet on Monday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the museum in South Casco. The museum building is directly off Route 302, across from Watkins Flowers.


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