Cape council votes for restriction, not restoration, of Goddard mansion

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council voted unanimously Sept. 14 to allocate $6,000 to fence off the most dangerous areas of Goddard mansion instead of committing to a long-term restoration plan.

While the short-term goal is to protect the public while the Fort Williams ruin deteriorates, the council did not act on the Fort Williams Advisory Commission’s long-term recommendations.

According to commission report, the long-term plan could be implemented as funds become available, and would cost about $100,000. The plan includes reducing the height of the walls to a seating or first-floor windowsill height, and capping them to help deter further deterioration.

The main front entrance could be saved with a bracing system and the interior would be graded, loamed and seeded for public access and easy maintenance. Interpretive panels to display the history of the mansion was another recommendation.

Dan Chase, chairman of the commission, said the group found no use or potential use for the ruins.

But many residents disagreed with the commission report and urged the council not to act.

Cynthia Morse of Surf Road said residents are lucky to have such a historic and archaeologically significant ruin in town.

“It would be a travesty to demolish it,” she said.

Anne Peabody of Surf Road said the mansion is part of the town’s fabric. She said she could not bear to tell her 87-year-old father, who has lived in town his entire life, that the destruction of the mansion was an item on the council agenda.

The mansion was constructed in 1853 by John Goddard, who became colonel of the 1st Maine Cavalry. The home had stone masonry walls and a roof and interior made of wood. The mansion became property of Cape Elizabeth when the town purchased Fort Williams in 1964. In 1981, the Fire Department conducted a controlled burn of the structure, which had deteriorated and been vandalized.

While Hilary Bassett, executive director of Greater Portland Landmarks, said the Goddard mansion is not on the Maine Historic Preservation Commission’s list of historic sites, she said it is worth stabilizing to preserve what is left as historical evidence to the town.

“I urge you to keep the building as it remains,” she said. “We are here to offer assistance in finding funding and resources to draw upon.”

The fencing will surround the areas around the walls of the former carriage house and connecting walls of the mansion.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or