Bandstand at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth could become 'Council Ring'

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Fort Williams Park Foundation wants to officially name one of the park’s former military bandstands the “Council Ring.”

At the request of the Town Council, the Fort Williams Park Committee is considering the name, with input from the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society, before sending a recommendation back to the council. 

Lynn Shaffer, Fort Williams Park Foundation president, said the name is meant to connote the structure’s intended use, which is a “community gathering spot, an outdoor classroom and a meeting place for conversation, song, dance and storytelling.”

During an April 9 meeting, Councilor Penny Jordan said the name sounded appropriate for the purpose. 

“It really starts to denote almost a transformation of this space,” Jordan said. “I think if people started to understand ‘Council Ring’ it can really create a sense of community in this space.”

The stone bandstand was built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a job creation program designed by the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to aid Americans during the Great Depression. The CCC also contributed to the park by building tennis courts, concrete bleachers – some of which remain – and an outdoor swimming pool, among other things. 

According to Jim Rowe, president of the historical society, music was an important element of military life in the fort from its earliest days. 

“Many of the regiments that were stationed at Fort Williams from 1872 until 1962 had their own bands,” Rowe added. “… The musicians lived in the Band Barracks, which was located at the eastern end of today’s Children’s Garden overlooking the pond.” 

At various times there were three bandstands in the park. The oldest, built in 1909, can still be seen near Officers Row. 

The bandstand under consideration is the focal point of the arboretum’s Children’s Garden. The base of the ring is comprised of stones engraved with the names of individuals and organizations who donated to the foundation’s construction of the garden.

Since the fort was converted to a park in 1979, the bandstand has been called many different things, such as “the gazebo,” “Circular Stone Picnic Enclosure” and “Stone Seating Circle.”

The foundation began referring to it as the “Council Ring” in late 2013, as part of its outreach and fundraising effort for the Children’s Garden. Shaffer said because the park is a town-owned facility, the official naming needs to be approved by the council.

The foundation has no plans to install a sign identifying the structure, Shaffer added. 

The foundation’s arboretum director, James McCain, said he anticipates a council vote in July, as long as the Fort Williams Park Committee and historical society recommend it. 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

The Fort Williams Park Foundation has requested that the 1937 bandstand in the Children’s Garden be officially named the “Council Ring,” pending approval from the Fort Williams Park Committee and Town Council. 

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