Naples Museum takes shape

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer

NAPLES — The Naples Museum is history.

The white, wooden barn-sized building — which was the town’s first fire station located on the Village Green in Naples — was demolished in July.

Earlier this month, a local contractor poured the concrete foundation for the new structure that will be home to the Naples Visitors’ Information Center and Museum.

With the exterior walls in place, currently most of the construction is going on inside the building, according to Town Manager Derik Goodine. Work to be finished includes putting up interior walls plus plumbing and electrical wiring, he said.

Construction should be completed in late September or early October. However, the museum won’t be open to the public until spring 2012 since this autumn staff will be moving artifacts back into place and setting up offices.

Naples resident David Turnbull has fond memories of the old museum building. In the 1970s, his mom Sylvia “Shorty” Turnbull (whose maiden name was Hayes) was employed as a curator there.

“My mom used to give me heck for crawling all over the wagon. I specifically remember that. It had big wheels,” he said. “Believe it or not, there was an old jail there. As a kid, I liked to play in it. We played ‘cops and robbers.’”

As a pre-teen living in the Edes Falls area, he would catch a ride with his mom on her way to work. Then, he would spend his summer days with friends on the Causeway. The activities included jumping into the deep water from the end of the open swing bridge — a pre-traffic congestion pastime that has also retired to the history books, he said.

“I was taken aback when I saw the building was gone. I stopped, and asked what was happening,” he said. “I think it’s good they are building a new museum. That other building was very old.”

President of the Naples Historical Society, Merry Watson, who also acts as the museum’s custodian, has been pushing for and raising money for a new museum building for 20 years.

Goodine was able pay for the $185,000 project by using Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds because the project promotes tourism.

Not only was the wooden building slowly rotting, but “there was no heat, no water and a damp cement floor,” Watson said.

It wasn’t a good environment for the town’s artifacts, she said.

“The new building will have radiant heat coming from the floor,” she said. It’ll have a dry hydrant system in case a fire breaks out, she added.

Selectman Rick Paraschak and Goodine said the town has not decided exactly what kind of fire protection equipment will be put in the building, but the aim is to protect the items of historical value that will be housed there.

According to Watson, “The museum will be receiving a 1939 fire truck” from Naples Fire and Rescue Department.

Another vintage vehicle will be the horse-drawn coach once used to haul baggage from the steamboat landing to the Bay of Naples Hotel. The passenger steamboat pulled into the spot where the Causeway Marina is now located, she said.

“And, there is the idol — he’s very popular,” she said. “The idol is a Chinese alms giver that sat outside a temple in China, and was stolen by some Naples residents and brought back here.”

Other artifacts include town reports from last century, age-old documents, pieces of wood, and planks from the original boardwalk.

“The street snow roller — that’s the coolest thing,” Goodine said.

Speaking of snow, an overhang or hood will protect the walkway from snow sloughing off the roof and make shoveling a little easier for museum staff, Goodine reported to the Naples Board of Selectmen on Monday.

The Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce will have brochures displayed in the new building. Other literature will be moved from the Visitors’ Information Center — currently in the tiny brick building overlooking Route 302.

In mid-August, workers raised between 30 and 35 trusses. Although raising the trusses took half a workday, the traffic coming from the United States Post Office and Naples Town Office was heavy enough to warrant a flagger — just while the trusses were being erected.

“I had one or two people who complained about the thoroughfare being blocked,” Goodine told the board. “They were laying trusses. It was only four of five hours” that vehicles were re-routed back through the parking lot.

“Because the pavement is in pretty good condition in the parking lot, I want to seal it instead of repaving it,” he said. “The (sealant) stuff is gritty, it has a grip factor, it has some abrasion to it so people won’t be slipping and sliding” when the pavement is wet, Goodine said.

Like the old building, the new large museum will be painted white. With a red roof, the building will blend in nicely with the older brick buildings on the Village Green, Watson said.

Watson is nothing short of excited to start removing the museum contents from storage containers. Wilma Irish, the current museum curator, will assist with the move.

“I go by there every day,” Watson said. “I can’t wait until it’s finished. The museum probably won’t be open to the public until the spring — unless someone wants to come in and look at piles of storage boxes.”

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