Naples cupola fundraising effort underway
By Dawn De Busk
NAPLES — Merry Watson remembers climbing up into the belfry on the Bay of Naples Inn, which was known by the locals as the Naples hotel.
“I remember the cupola. I climbed in it in ‘64 before they tore it down. I didn’t mind the bats at all,” Merry said. “Yes, there were plenty of bats up there. But, it was worth it.”
A cupola is a small dome-like structure that has a roof, and is usually built on a much larger roof. A set of cupolas crowned the roof of the Bay of Naples Inn — the hotel that for more than 80 years was a commanding landmark in Naples.
“The hotel took up that whole hill. It was beautiful inside, built out of oak. It had a veranda; it had four floors; it was heated during the winter; and it had running water, which was odd because it was the 1890s,” Merry said, adding that not a lot of buildings had running water at the turn of the 19th century.
The architecture of the hotel itself was a beautiful part of the landscape on the Causeway, Merry said. Meanwhile, the location provided picturesque views from the hotel, which stayed in business from the 1890s until 1954, she said.
“It was vacant for a long time,” she said.
It was 10 years after the hotel closed that Merry decided to the climb up into the cupola and explore that piece of architectural history firsthand.
Now, she feels like it is an uphill climb to raise the $30,000 needed to move the last remaining cupola to a new site where more people can enjoy it.
The cupola is what is left of the “a landmark in town,” she said.
The cupola was gifted to her by the owner of the Bay of Naples Campground. Watson would like to see the cupula moved from the playground of the campground property, where the historic structure still sits, to the Village Green, where residents and tourists alike can view it up close. Plus, she’ll be able to keep up on maintenance with the structure closer to the Naples Museum, where Merry works as curator.
“The cupola is mine. I am going to have to take care of it. If it’s in the Village Green, people will use it more and not abuse it,” she said. The Village Green, particularly the lawn area adjacent to the Naples Town Hall parking lot, is well-lit, has public presence, and is used year-round, she said.
“We want to put windows and doors in it and a bench around it so people can sit,” Merry said. Another idea is to display photographs from the hotel’s era on the inside walls of the cupola, she said.
The longtime Naples resident is optimistic but somewhat realistic about fundraising the $30,000 needed to move the cupola. She said it might take another year or two before she meets her fundraising goal.
The cupola does not need to be repaired, she said. “It is fine the way it is. It is all in good shape.”
“There are a lot of people who have volunteered to help move it,” Merry said. “We are trying to raise money for moving it.”
“It is big. It is 22 feet wide and 40 feet tall. It is so tall that it will not go under any wires. That is the problem. That is what will cost money,” she said.
“When they moved the Rufus Porter building in Bridgton, the biggest cost was moving the utility lines,” Merry said.
Central Maine Power (CMP) was great to work with and didn’t charge the moving company for that, she said.
“There are a lot of wires between the campground and the town office that weren’t there before” when the cupola was moved to the campground, she said.
“That’s what we are trying to do whether it takes,” Merry said.
To help with cost associated with moving the Bay of Naples Inn’s cupola to the Naples Village Green, check out the GoFundMe page called Save the Cupola. The Naples Town Office will take donations made out to the Naples Historical Society.