Bowery Beach School House c. 1865

The Story

In 1865, Elliot Wescott was paid $600 to construct the Baxter School, a simple, one and a half story Greek Revival-style building. Now known as the Bowery Beach School, the building retains its clapboard exterior with simple corner boards and six over six windows. In 1931 the town of Cape Elizabeth sold the property to the Ladies Union and renamed the schoolhouse Crescent Lodge. In 1983, The Ladies Union deeded the property to the Cape Elizabeth Lions Club. The building sees use throughout the year, providing a meeting place for the Cape Elizabeth Lions, local Boy Scouts, support groups and is also rented out to private parties for single-day functions.

The Threat

The Cape Elizabeth Lions Club recognizes that in the near future, shortage of funds to continue maintenance puts its continued ownership of the Bowery Beach School building in peril. As a 501(c)(4) fraternal organization, the Lions Club is required to dedicate 100% of its fundraising efforts to 501(c)(3) nonprofit charities, which unfortunately provides very limited opportunities and resources to raise funds for building repair and maintenance. A recent professional building inspection revealed that while the foundation appears solid, there are significant levels of wood rot and rodent damage that must be dealt with immediately.

The Solution

Fraternal organizations across the country are attempting to deal with the care and maintenance of their historic buildings in the face of declining membership, and the Lions Club in Cape Elizabeth is no different. Many organizations are forced to sell, but the loss of this civic space would be demoralizing to the community. The formation of a friends group and broad community support will allow the Cape Elizabeth Lions to fund some if not much of the repair, maintenance and annual carrying costs of the building, ensuring the Bowery Beach School House remains a center of community life.