Thank you to all of the venues, volunteers, sponsors – and especially our guests – for making the 3rd annual Magical History Tour one for the ages!
This year we explored The American Legion Andrews Post 17, Chapman National Bank / Time & Temperature Building, Church of the Sacred Heart, Circus Maine / Thompson’s Point, Cross Jewelers, Forest City Boxing Gym / Fork Food Lab, Longfellow Rolls Royce, State Theatre, Waynflete School, and the winner of our People’s Choice site from the past two years, the City Hall Clock Tower. For those who weren’t able to join us or didn’t get to visit all the locations, see below for historical information on each site.
And don’t forget to keep sharing your awesome photos from the Tour with us on social media using #MHSTour. Below are some from our Communications Manager throughout the day – he wasn’t able to visit all the sites so help us collect ’em all with images of your own!
The American Legion, Andrews Post 17
History of the Structure:
23 Deering Street, designed by renowned Portland architect John Calvin Stevens was built for Fred E. Allen in 1898. Originally designed as a double house (although built as a single family), the two and half story Colonial Revival home was occupied by the Allen’s until the death of Mrs. Harriet Allen in 1925. Mrs. Allen’s executor sold the home to Karl Seaholm, who in turn sold it to The American Legion Harold T. Andrews Post, 17, in 1926 for the sum of $1 and other considerations. Mr. Seaholm never occupied the home, making the Post the second occupant.
While designed as a double house, or two-family home, there is no evidence of residents other than Fred Allen and his wife Harriet. The couple did not have children, and there appears to be no evidence of renters or other use.
The Dining Room: In 1996, the major Hollywood film, was made here. “The Preacher’s Wife”–a romantic comedy directed by Penny Marshall, starred Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. They filmed a skating scene in Deering Oaks Park, but due to warm weather than year, had to make snow for the scene. This building’s dining room (on the tour) was used as the preacher’s office in the film.
A Bit on John Calvin Stevens:
Of further Note **MHS houses architectural drawings, by John Calvin Stevens, including the one for this building.
1855: John Calvin Stevens is born in Boston, MA, October 8 1855. His family moves to Portland when he was two.
1873: Stevens enters the offices of Francis H. Fassett, who was then the only practicing architect in Portland.
1877: Stevens marries Louise Waldron
1880: Stevens is made a partner in Fassett and Stevens.
1883: Stevens opens his own office.
1888-1891: Stevens becomes partners with Albert Winslow Cobb
1889: The American Institute of Architects names Stevens a Fellow (its honorary membership designation).
1895-96: Stevens is President of the Portland Society of Art in 1895-96.
1904-1940: Stevens partners with son, John Howard Stevens.
1940: John Calvin Stevens dies.
In 1888, Stevens entered a partnership with Albert Winslow Cobb, who had worked as an architectural renderer for Emerson; the partnership lasted only three years, during which time the partners published Stevens’ designs as Examples of American Domestic Architecture (1889). The sketches of John Calvin Stevens’ Shingle Style homes influenced architectural design nationwide and he was made a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Vincent Scully has praised John Calvin Stevens in his books The Shingle Style, 1955 (revised 1971 as The Shingle Style and the Stick Style), and The Architecture of the American Summer, 1989. “In the movement toward geometric and spatial discipline in design, the work of John Calvin Stevens, of Portland, Maine, is of critical importance” wrote Scully in The Shingle Style.
Although Stevens is best remembered for his Shingle Style cottages, he also designed both large and small country and city houses, as well as public, commercial and industrial buildings, including the Portland Post Office and the buildings of the Wyman Power Station at Wyman Dam. He was an enthusiastic believer in the City Beautiful movement and the philosophy of civic improvement through architecture. He consulted on the Portland City Hall (1909-1912), designed by the New York firm of Carrere and Hastings, and designed several major summer hotels, among them the Hotel Metallak in Colebrook, New Hampshire (the plans of which were later used for the Naples Inn in Maine) and alterations to the Poland Spring Inn and Mansion House in Poland Spring, Maine.
Of Further Note **Although John Calvin Stevens’ daughter married into the Allen family, there is no immediate family connection between John Calvin Stevens’ son-in-law Neal Allen and Fred E. Allen, owner of the home. Fred Allen worked as a commission merchant, his parents moved to Portland from Massachusetts around the time of his birth.**
History of The American Legion:
“World War I was a brutal and hideous war. The physical and emotional effects of modern warfare were felt on many levels. With a military force larger than any before, America searched for new ways to support its returning soldiers, as well as their families.
Immediately following the Armistice, there were large scale fundraising efforts aimed to support soldiers still stationed abroad. New social organizations formed, most notably The American Legion. Existing organizations like the Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A) and the Knights of Columbus rallied to improve the lives of returning veterans.
However, veterans of the first World War faced numerous hurdles. Many servicemen returned to discover their jobs, their farms, or their homes had vanished while they served oversees. Faced with readjusting to society, and limited government support, many returning soldiers struggled. But many more found the support they needed amongst themselves and their local communities. Their perseverance and commitment helped establish the Department of Veterans Affairs, and paved the way for their successors and the veterans of today.” –Excerpt from WWI and the Maine Experience MHS Exhibit currently on display.
On the heels of the Armistice, and with troops still on the ground in France, “a group of 20 officers who served in the American Expeditionary Forces … were asked to suggest ideas on how to improve troop morale… Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., proposed an organization of veterans, which we know today as The American Legion.
The original purpose of The Legion was to “preserve the memories and incidence of our association in the great war,” helping those who had served in foreign wars to reintegrate into their hometowns while still remaining connected to those with whom they had served abroad.
The Legion served as a support group, a social club and an extended family for former servicemen. After two planning caucuses held by a committee of officers who had the confidence and respect of their military comrades, they designed a constitution to govern the group and set up headquarters in New York City to begin work on its programs of relief, employment and Americanism.” – AlaforVeterans.org
“The American Legion was chartered by Congress on September 16th, 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization. Focusing on service to veterans, service members and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States. Membership, which is restricted to veterans having served during war time, swiftly grew to over 1 million, and local posts sprang up across the country. Today, membership stands at over 2.4 million in 14,000 posts worldwide. The posts are organized into 55 departments: one each for the 50 states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines.” – http://www.legion.org
The Harold T. Andrews Post, was chartered on September 29, 1919, and was the 17th such post to be chartered in the State of Maine.
Who is Harold T. Andrews?
Harold T. Andrews was the first soldier from Maine to lose his life in WWI. Post 17 was named in remembrance of this soldier.
The current exhibition on display at MHS (WWI and the Maine Experience) exhibits a plaque to Andrews.
Also of Note: **This is the same man that Andrews square is named after in Portland.**
**A memorial service for fallen Portland and South Portland WWI soldiers was held on November 11, 1919. The service was sponsored by the families of two soldiers who passed: Harold T. Andrews and Stewart P. Morrill.**
Chapman National Bank / Time & Temperature Building
The Chapman National Bank opened in 1893 and moved into the Chapman Bank Building in 1924. Our guests are seeing the bank’s elegant lobby, and mezzanine with meeting rooms above.
Completed in 1910, the Fidelity Trust Building next door was the tallest building in New England. The Chapman Building—now known as the Time and Temperature Building–a 12-story office and store complex, was completed in 1924. The two were the city’s only skyscrapers and set the tone for progress in 20th-century Portland. Verticality was seen as the emerging shape of the 20th-century city. For Portland, the 1929 stock market crash and Great Depression stopped the progress.
In 1962 the Chapman Bank – now known as the Time and Temperature Building – gained two more stories. It was not until the 1970s that more tall buildings were added to Portland’s landscape.
Police officers stand on a moving truck while movers prepare to load items from Chapman Bank for its move from 185 Middle St. in Portland to a new location in the Chapman Building in Monument Square.
Herbert W. Rhodes designed the classical revival Chapman Building, which was built on the site of the Preble House Hotel.
The Chapman Building contains part of the old Preble House Hotel that was built about 1845-1855 and extended to the corner of Preble Street. When the Chapman Building was built, they only demolished 2/3 of the old Preble House Hotel and incorporated the rest. As you enter 477 Congress St and go past the 3 elevators on your left, you will notice an ornate railing and staircase leading up to the 2nd floor. That staircase was part of a grand double staircase that graced the lobby of the old Preble House Hotel.
The Civic Theater was located on the left of the building, at the end of the Arcade leading down the sloped walkway from Congress Street. The Civic Theater was huge, seating at least a thousand people. It was demolished in the 1960s and a parking garage was built in its place. The Civic Arcade, which served as the lobby to the Building and an entrance to the theater, is still in use. Remnants of the elaborate decoration of the arcade can still be seen in the surviving Preble Street entrance.
The Chapman National Bank lobby and meeting rooms were used by WMTW TV station as their news station from 2000 through 2014. During that time, the beautiful woodwork was hidden by heavy black curtains to create their studio. This use kept the space protected for 15 years. The space is now available for rent through the Dunham Group.
Church of the Sacred Heart
This beautiful Italian Renaissance Catholic Church was designed by the eminent local architectural firm of Francis H. and Edward F. Fassett and completed in 1915. It was modeled on a prominent church in Marseilles, France (Notre Dame de la Garde) and boasts supporting columns of Indiana limestone and shrines and altars of Carrara marble. The Boston sculptor Hugh Cairns made the Stations of the Cross for the church. F. H. Fassett had previously designed many local Catholic schools and died in 1908.
Sacred Heart Church Parish was established by Bishop James A. Healy in 1896 under the guidance of its first pastor, the Reverend John O’Dowd, a native of Ireland, who gathered the first communicants together. After ordination in Paris, O’Dowd was assigned to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and then spent fourteen years with the Passamaquoddy Indians in Maine. O’Dowd spent many fruitful years in the parish and constantly endeavored to have the present church built. As the Church of the Sacred Heart was under construction, O’Dowd lived in the lower basement as soon as the builders had the basement roof on. O’Dowd lived there until the Bishop requested that he have the rectory built and he moved there.
The Rev. James Augustine Carey, recently returned from chaplain duty in France during the Great War, was appointed the administrator of Sacred Heart Church in 1919 and pastor in 1923. James A. Carey became one of the most celebrated priests in the Diocese of Maine. Fluent in several languages, “Father” Carey, designated a monsignor in 1939, often served the Italians in Portland before St. Peter’s Church was built. He wrote many popular religious plays about the early growth of Catholicism in Maine and was state chaplain of the American Legion for many years. Under the tenure of Father Carey, a Sacred Heart Parish School was constructed in 1927. The new school was put in charge of the Sisters of Mercy, who had been teaching in the church basement since 1915.
Sacred Heart Church was “twinned” with its “southern” neighbor, St. Dominic Church, in July 1991. The pastor would now serve both parishes and reside in the Sacred Heart rectory. In 1996, Bishop Joseph Gerry announced that one of the churches would have to close, citing dwindling membership, a shortage of priests, and the monumental costs of operating these giant churches of the past. Sacred Heart was saved, but St. Dom’s closed, the last Mass being celebrated there in May 1998. The “new” parish became known as Sacred Heart/St. Dominic Catholic Parish.
The Church of The Sacred Heart has continuously served immigrant populations since it was built in 1896. Beginning with Irish and French Canadian people through today. Currently the community draws from over 35 countries from North, Central and South America; Southern Africa; Europe and Asia. At least six languages and multiple dialects are spoken by the parishioners. Masses are said in English, French and Spanish to serve the spiritual needs of the parishioners.
Choir Loft: In the choir loft you will see the church organ which is a three-manual hall organ with over 2500 pipes. This was a gift of Governor Percival Baxter in 1922 in memory of his sister, Emily Proctor Baxter (1874-1921), a Catholic convert who was the church organist and music director for more than 20 years. Church members have had the organ repaired and tuned in time for it to be played today.
Outside: As you leave, please look along the parking lot where you will see a Kousa Dogwood tree. Behind the garage is one of the largest and rarest trees in Maine. Said to have been planted by a visiting priest, the Dawn Redwood is imported from China. This species of tree was not discovered in China until 1944! City arborist, Jeff Tarling, estimates that both trees were planted in the 1950s. Also, these two rare trees are found in the Maine Big Tree List.
1896: Land purchased by Bishop Healy from the Honorable James P. Baxter, father of Gov. Percival Baxter for $12,000; The church was built by and for Irish and French Canadian Immigrants; Contract for brickwork to James Cunningham, iron work to Megquier-Jones; Lower basement excavation began and cornerstone laid.
1897: First Mass held for parishioners in basement; Church of the Sacred Heart Dedicated; Fr. O’Dowd lived in lower basement (level below current church hall) until 1903.
1910: Construction begins on upper church.
1913: Construction of superstructure & towers begins
1915: Church of the Sacred Heart completed and first Mass held on July Fourth
Megquier-Jones Steel, used to construct the unique vaulted ceiling which was designed to eliminate the need for obstructing pillars in the sanctuary.
The statues of Christ, St. John and the Virgin Mary, above the front doors, were sculpted of Carrara Marble.
Stained glass windows depicting Christ’s life were crafted in the studios of Montague Castle Company, New York, made from Munich pictorial stained glass, that are recognized and respected for their elaborate, finely executed painting.
Original wood altar panel (now in the chapel) from Munich, each figure is individually carved. The panel is surrounded by Carrara Marble. The altar was made in Columbus, Ohio.
Circus Maine / Thompson’s Point
Thompson’s Point derives its name from the Thompson, Fowler & Co, “dealers in pork, lard, hams, dressed hogs, extra lard oil, pigs” (dressed up verbiage for a slaughter house and pork packing) which occupied the point from the Civil War through the turn of the century. David Thompson began the business in 1850 as a butcher, expanding to an eventual partnership with Henry Fowler. The firm changed its name to Thompson, Fowler & Co in 1873. In the 1870s, Henry Fowler, the legal owner of the property, conveyed portions the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad.
Thompson, Fowler & Co. occupied the point along with the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad’s yard, repair shops, and engine house by 1886. These structures were eventually acquired by Maine Central Railroad, which absorbed many of Maine’s RR companies.
Thompson’s Point itself included a ‘right of way’ for the Cumberland and Oxford Canal. Logistically speaking, the Cumberland and Oxford Canal extended “through” the point (prior to the establishment of the point), as seen on the 1886 Sanborn Map, where “low wet ground” is outlined between Thompson, Fowler & Co and the P&O RR buildings.
All of the brick historic structures that remain at Thompson’s Point today are related to its use as a train repair and storage facility in the second half of the 19th century. Also located on the site is a portion of the platform shed from Union Station. After the destruction of Union Station in 1960, a portion of the station’s platform shed was relocated to the southern tip of the point. (It’s the large canopy structure, now used as the beer tent during concert season!)
The large-scale historic brick industrial buildings are now being rehabilitated for a variety of businesses including a winery, event space, and shared maker space.
City Hall Clock Tower
The building that extends from Myrtle Street to Chestnut Street is the third Portland City Hall to be located at 389 Congress Street. The present structure was designed by Carrere & Hastings of New York City, in collaboration with renowned local architects John Calvin Stevens and John Howard Stevens. The design is patterned after New York City’s City Hall in lower Manhattan.
The cornerstone was laid in 1909; the completed structure was dedicated on August 22, 1912. The original portion of the building, which contains municipal offices, is a three-story U-shaped granite structure that opens up onto Congress Street. A 200-foot tower tops this central section of the building. Later, an addition was added along Myrtle Street to house the 1,900 seat Merrill Auditorium and the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ. There are memorial plaques to the veterans of America’s wars affixed to the granite entrance blocks.
This current building replaced the second City Hall on this site. That building, designed by Francis H. Fassett, had been completed in 1868 but was destroyed by fire on January 24, 1908. It contained Municipal Offices, Police Headquarters and the City Jail. Although it was equipped with a modern alarm system, that system failed thereby delaying discovery of the fire until it was too late to save the building. Fortunately, many municipal archives were saved.
Cross Jewelers has been a part of Maine tourmaline history since the early 1900’s, when Mr. William M. Cross began pursuing a personal interest in gem cutting. As the stone cutting wheels of the day lacked the consistent precision which Mr. Cross was looking for, he began work, and completed two stone cutting machines which became models for other lapidaries of the time. As Mr. Cross worked to perfect his art as a gemstone cutter, he cut and polished beautiful green tourmaline from Mt. Apatite near Auburn, Maine. Many of the gems he cut were fashioned into pins and rings of the period, created in his manufacturing jewelry shop in Portland.
Following the death of William Cross in 1931, his stone cutting machines, and over 2,600 carats of this deep green Maine tourmaline (most of it still rough crystals), were stored away. It was not until after the great “rediscovery” of tourmaline on Plumbago Mountain in 1972, that the rough tourmaline was brought out and examined (during Cross’ first annual Tourmaline Cutting and Polishing Demonstration), and found to be of extremely fine quality. While the green gems from Newry range from light pastel greens to a bright, lively apple green, the Mt. Apatite gems were distinctly different, with their deep green, almost emerald color. Cross immediately began having the rough crystals cut and polished, which led to the creation of a major jewelry collection, featuring Maine tourmaline.
Fork Food Lab / Forest City Boxing Gym
The historic address for the Fork Food Lab is 270 Lancaster Street. Throughout most of the building’s life, the entrance was on Lancaster Street, facing the New System Laundry building. At its inception in the early 20th century, Lancaster Street ran east to west ending at Forest Ave. In the later years, the portion from Parris St to Forest Ave was absorbed into the Post Office complex or rendered an alleyway, as seen today between Fork Food Lab and the old New System Laundry building.
The warehouse building at 270 Lancaster St was built about 1917, when Morris Matlook (Matlock) purchased the land from a Mr. Ezekiel Boxstein. In the same month, Mr. Matlook purchased a second parcel at 72 Parris St., intertwining the two properties.
Mr. Matlook, a Russian Jewish immigrant, owned and operated a junk business, known as Matlock Bros at the 270 Lancaster address. During this period, Morris Matlock lived in the two-family home at the 72 Parris Street address. 270 Lancaster and 72 Parris are perpendicular to one another, creating a corner lot at the intersection of Parris and Lancaster Streets. Sometime after 1962, the home was demolished and now serves as a parking lot.
The Morris Bros. junk business operated until 1935, when the property was foreclosed upon. Morris Matlock had ventured into an upholstery business at this same time. Despite the foreclosure, his upholstery business appeared at the 270 Lancaster address in the 1936 as Lancaster Upholstery. But by 1938, the building was occupied by another business.
In 1938, 270 Lancaster St. was the location of Forest City Gymnasium, as well as Hirning Bakery. Gus Hirning, son of German and Irish immigrants, operated the gym. He also worked as a baker for the Eastland Hotel. He apparently operated a small bakery in the gymnasium building. The Forest City Gymnasium, according to the Portland City Guide, was “equipped for boxing training and workouts.” Membership was $1, with an extra fee for lockers. The baking business at 270 Lancaster was short lived, but the gym continued through 1953.
In the mid-1950s the Lancaster address was briefly occupied by an oil equipment company, but by 1959 entered a long period as a series of wholesale flower businesses until 2009 when it sat empty until Fork Food Lab opened in 2016.
Fork Food Lab: A privately-owned, membership-based commercial kitchen incubator and tasting room. Member business have access to a full portfolio of kitchen equipment, ample storage, and staff on site for cleaning, Fork allows these food maker “members” to focus on their product with less administrative strain. With a public tasting room built in, members are able to share their creations with the public and get immediate feedback. The business is at the heart of the renaissance of the Bayside neighborhood.
Longfellow Rolls Royce
This vehicle was originally owned by Alice Mary Longfellow (September 22, 1850 – December 7, 1928), daughter of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Alice was the eldest surviving daughter of the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. She is best known as “grave Alice” from her father’s poem “The Children’s Hour”.
Longfellow was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and traveled frequently throughout her life, spending the majority of her time abroad in France and Italy. She died in Cambridge in 1928 in the same house where she was born.
When Longfellow turned 21 years old, her father gave her the share of her mother’s estate that had been willed to her, totaling $131,755.45, which would allow Longfellow financial independence for the rest of her life.
From the time she was about 28 years old in 1879 until her death 50 years later, Alice was focused on philanthropic works, such as the preservation of American antiquities, promoting educational opportunities for disenfranchised groups, and supporting the Allied forces during World War I.
Longfellow worked to preserve her father’s home in Cambridge, now Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site.
In January 1879 Longfellow joined The Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women, a committee of seven women who worked to establish the Harvard Annex for women to have classes taught by Harvard professors. Longfellow was the treasurer of the Annex from 1883–1891, a special student from 1879–90, and a member of the governing board until her death in 1928.The institution later became known as Radcliffe College.
Longfellow had close relationships with many family members, including cousin Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow, Jr. who designed the Maine Historical Society Library.
Her Rolls Royce was acquired by Alan Bemis, professor of physics and director of the Weather Radar Research Project at MIT. Bemis used the car to transport weather observation equipment to the top of Mt. Washington during the 1930s. Severely damaged in the 1938 hurricane, it was restored to its present condition by Bemis who later presented it to the Owl’s Head Transportation Museum.
Portland’s State Theatre was built during the heyday of the American Movie Palace.During the golden age of Hollywood, the excitement of going to the movies wasn’t only about seeing the stars on screen. It also meant spending time at the neighborhood movie theater, an architecturally ornate center of the community’s social life. They were lavishly decorated in exotic themes that complimented the Art Deco style of the period.
A creative combination of Art Deco style, with Moorish and Spanish influences, the State Theatre was intended to create a fantasy atmosphere, featuring elaborate murals, tile work, and tapestries. The State Theatre originally containing 2,300 seats. Its expensive furnishings, which included wrought iron stairs, bronze doors, tapestry rugs hung from vaulted ceilings decorated with intricate moldings and paintings, four Spanish balconies, and a Wurlitzer Organ were some of the remarkably lavish highlights of the original building. It was also technologically advanced for its time. It aimed to give audiences the richest film experiences of the era with three projectors and a magnascope, which generated an enormous and quality picture. In the early days, films came by Greyhound Bus to the corner of Spring and High and were picked up and delivered to theater by handcarts.
The State Theatre’s doors opened to the public for the first time November 8, 1929 to 2, 200 invited patrons for Gloria Swanson’s first talkie, The Trespasser. The State Theatre served as a top-tier first run motion picture house for over 30 years. Tickets were ten cents to a quarter. The State only flirted briefly with silent films and vaudeville before transitioning completely to Hollywood’s biggest first run sound films of the day. In the mid-1930s the State Theatre began a children’s matinee program, showing the most popular cartoons of the day, such as Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and Popeye.
In the late 1940s through the 1960s the State Theatre expanded its programming to include theatrical and dance productions. It also held other various events and contests, all in addition to major Hollywood films. A large part of the programming expansion was due to growing competition from television. The State had microwave technology in the 50s…for example, boxing matches that were held in NYC were transmitted to Mt. Washington, then to the top of the Eastland and then by cable to the State.
By the 1960s the State Theatre has fallen on hard times. To prevent it from being torn down, the sad fate of all too many historical Portland buildings in that era, the State Theatre was leased as an X-Rated movie venue. (Other local theatrical venues such as the Civic, the Empire, and the Strand were torn down by the city.)
In 1990 the State was purchased by new owners who worked with local architect Scott Simmons to help restore the theatre’s glory. The State reopened in 1993 to much acclaim. After a few false starts and various owners, the State reopened again in 2010 and is active once more.
Waynflete was born in the Gilded Age, described by one historian as a time of “excesses…crudities…the spirit of grab and conquest” but also of “vitality and enthusiasm… the zestful drive that animated American society” after the Civil War. Waynflete was born on the eve of the Progressive Era (1901-1917), a period of reform that left no level of society untouched – in the midst of tremendous changes that were sweeping this country and Europe.
~ Celebrating Waynflete : One Hundred Years in the Life of a School by Leonard L. Brooks and Margaret W. Soule (1998)
Waynflete School was founded in 1897 by Agnes Lowell and Caroline Crisfield, who came to Portland from the Ogontz School for Young Ladies in Philadelphia. During a trip to England, the founders became interested in 15th-century statesman and educator William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor of England, he founded Magdalen College at Oxford as well as an elementary school at his nameplace, “Wainfleet.” From this came the name for the new school in Portland, which opened with forty-nine students, including 6 boarders.
In an age when private schools in the Portland area were plentiful, Waynflete fast became the school of choice for families seeking strong academic preparation as well as grounding in the arts. And, contrary to popular belief, Waynflete was never entirely an all-girls school, admitting small numbers of boys even from its earliest days.
The school’s original home, in 1898, was the Elias Thomas House, located at 163 Danforth Street at the corner of Winter Street. Restored to its original grandeur today, it is now known as The Danforth, a popular boutique inn.
In 1912, to accommodate the school’s rapid growth, Miss Lowell and Miss Crisfield bought the Horace Dudley estate located between Danforth and Spring streets near the Western Promenade. Classrooms were constructed in the nearby stables and carriage house, known today as Founders Hall. The estate’s lawns and gardens made a fine playground and an idyllic setting for the annual May Festival and other budding traditions that continue to be celebrated nearly a century later.
Miss Lowell and Miss Crisfield retired from Waynflete in 1924. In the early 20th century, Waynflete adopted the progressive model of education championed by philosopher John Dewey, a movement which emphasized children’s physical, social, emotional and intellectual development through “hands-on” learning. It was the vision of then-Waynflete president Dr. Sylvester Judd Beach that the School would pioneer progressive education in the Portland region. This vision was ably executed by Headmistress Barbara Woodruff (later Freeman) during her tenure from 1930-1948. A graduate of Teachers College at Columbia University, Miss Woodruff led Waynflete to define itself as “ a true community school where pupils, faculty, and parents share the responsibilities of a common educational enterprise.”
The resiliency of Waynflete would soon be tested through the Great Depression and two world wars, but the next half century marked unprecedented progress at the School nonetheless:
- boys were admitted for the first time beyond grade four in 1950, and into the high school in 1967;
- academics broadened with the establishment of summer school in 1957, the dramatic evolution of the language program, full-day Kindergarten, and the Lower School Storer House Program.
- Campus growth during this time included the Marjorie Robinson Thaxter Library in 1962, the Gymnasium in 1973, The Berle Student Center in 1993, and the Upper School Science Center in 2001.
- 2009 brought another major addition to the Waynflete campus with the construction of the Arts Center and Joan Sayward Franklin ’46 Theater and the renovation of Sills Hall to a second gymnasium.
The School continues to move ahead into the 21st century with state-of-the-art technology, a strong commitment to diversity and sustainability, and a continual effort of self-examination that allows Waynflete to provide quality education to students and a true “Waynflete experience.”