Schoolhouse replica to be built by Friends of Library

THE FOUNDATION IS LAID — The concrete slab was placed last week. It will be the foundation for a replica of the Old Friends Schoolhouse that was destroyed in a fire set by arsonists in April. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — The community has been supportive of the concept of keeping history alive by constructing a replica of the old Friends Schoolhouse that was lost in a fire last April.

Many individuals have stepped forward to donate materials, time and money to the project, according to Jean LaBrecque, a member of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society.

While many artifacts lost to the fire cannot be replaced, members of the historical society will be able to use the insurance settlement, which was $30,000, to rebuild the one-room structure on land next to the museum.

“It was really a beloved icon in the Town of Casco,” LaBrecque said.

As of late July, the concrete slab was placed. The donated lumber was stacked nearby and three granite steps sat on the site.

“The goal is to have the outside of the schoolhouse finished by winter. This is where the 19th century meets the 21st century: There will be a metal roof and vinyl siding,” LaBrecque said.

“All of the dimensions will be what ordinal was. It will be 20’x30’. It will follow the same lines. The doors will be in the same place,” she said.

“There is a discussion going on about which wood to use for the floor. It is oak versus pumpkin pine. One of the problems with oak is that it takes a long time to dry. Pumpkin pine was used by people during the time period when the schoolhouse was built, she said.

The original schoolhouse was built on Quaker Ridge Road, and was in use from 1849 to 1944, according to Maine: An Encyclopedia. In 1971, the schoolhouse was donated to the historical society and relocated to the Village behind the town’s library.

Prior to the fire, the historical society had planned this summer to move the schoolhouse from Casco Village to the museum property in Casco.

“I believe that the rebuilding of the schoolhouse is going to revive interest in the museum,” LaBrecque said. “I am amazed by what is there [in the museum]. It’s the kind of museum I like. It is a record of what life was like in the past 150 years.”

The Raymond-Casco Historical Society’s Museum is located on Shadow Road, which is right off Route 302 in Casco near the Naples boundary. The mural painted on the exterior wall of the museum can be seen from Route 302.

The towns of Raymond and Casco had already finalized the budgets for the 2018-19 fiscal year by the time the fire happened. So, the funding that had been allocated was sufficient to relocate the building, not rebuild it. Residents during both town meetings expressed a desire to support the Friends Schoolhouse replica in the future.

According to LaBrecque, preliminary work on the schoolhouse is being done with the objective of completing the replica before the snow flies.

“The land that the schoolhouse is on was essentially donated in a 99-year lease by Skip Watkins. It has been registered at the Cumberland County Registry of Deeds. [The area] has been excavated. That was done by Pete Watkins,” she said.

“There are two brothers, Cory and Charlie Chaplain, who donated their time in cutting the logs and milling the logs to donate for the schoolhouse. They used hemlock, which will last forever,” she said.

“They were very generous with their time, their energy and efforts,” LaBrecque said.

Most of the materials for the schoolhouse were donated except for the rafters and beams that will be purchased from Hancock Lumber, she said.

In the future, the historical society will begin the fundraising campaign to purchase furnishings for the schoolhouse, LaBrecque said. She is hoping to find century-appropriate desks and readers typically used in the one-room schoolhouse.


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