Scarborough campaign hopes to preserve last 1-room schoolhouse

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SCARBOROUGH — Historians are looking for help from the community to restore the town’s last one-room schoolhouse.

The fundraising effort is an ode to the neighborhood surrounding Beech Ridge School, according to Scarborough Historical Society Vice President and curator Becky Delaware.

“Beech Ridge is kind of out there as far as location,” Delaware said. “It was a tight community. … They’re kind of in the rural area of town, so at that time, there was really no one helping them. … That’s the way the neighborhood was – neighbor helping neighbors.”

Delaware said the school has stood near the corner of Holmes Road and Beech Ridge Road since at least 1870. She can’t find any record of its existence prior to that.

In those days, she said, when every neighborhood in town had its own schoolhouse, Beech Ridge was a “well-attended” school and served ages 4-21 in class sizes of about 30.

Delaware estimated that classes at the school ceased around 1930. According to Maine Memory Network, the school was “discontinued” in 1947, when it was sold for $1 to the Beech Ridge Association, which most recently used it as a meeting space and supper hall.

The community club gave the deed to the historical society late last year, with hopes of seeing the building preserved.

Delaware said the society’s initial fundraising goal is $60,000, which will pay for repairs to the roof and foundation. She said more money will likely be needed for secondary restoration components, such as electricity, plumbing and insulation.

Delaware said Irene Kosky, who in 2016 at the age of 97 was presented with Scarborough’s Boston Post Cane recognizing her as the town’s oldest resident, attended Beech Ridge and will provide “tidbits” of information about the building’s aesthetics as she remembers them. For instance, there was once an American flag out front, which Delaware said they hope to replicate. 

According to Delaware, there were once 13 or 14 one-room schoolhouses in Scarborough, but with the early 1900s came a “push away from district schools” in favor of centralized town schools.

Beech Ridge School now stands alone – all the other schoolhouses in town have been demolished or converted to homes.

Eventually, Delaware said, the society hopes to restore the building to its original state and open it for community events and school field trips. 

Although requests for donations have primarily been made via word of mouth, Delaware said the society hopes to ramp up and formalize the effort soon. It hopes to meet its fundraising goal and begin construction by the end of the year.

Society Treasurer Joyce Alden said she recently created a birthday fundraiser on Facebook, suggesting donations from people in her network. Within only a few days, she said her friends have donated $300 and there are still two weeks to meet her goal of $500.

“I’ve been amazed by the support,” Alden said.

“That’s the way the (Beech Ridge) neighborhood worked back then,” Delaware added. “You didn’t expect anything in return. You just knew that if you were the one who needed help, the neighbors would be there to help you.”

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

The Scarborough Historical Society is trying to raise $60,000 to begin renovations at the Beech Ridge School, which dates to the 1800s at 184 Holmes Road.

Scarborough Historical Society Vice President Becky Delaware holds a photo of a class in front of the Beech Ridge one-room schoolhouse that she estimates was taken in 1885.

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