Historical Society to Digitize Collections

 Cape Elizabeth historians, history lovers and students soon will have town history available at the touch of a few keys. With a donation from Cape Elizabeth’s Sprague family, the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society recently acquired “PastPerfect,” a software program that digitizes museum and historical society collections. More than 9,500 libraries, museums and historical societies nationwide, and more than 60 organizations in Maine use the software, created in 1998. “The society extends its sincere thanks to the Sprague family. With this program we can integrate our archives – documents of all kinds – with photographs that have been, or will be, digitized and entered into the program,” CEHPS member Ellen VanFleet said. “The program also manages the whole array of objects in our collection – everything from artwork and posters to clothing, arrowheads, toolboxes and life preservers. The system will link the society’s digital assets to its catalog records, so “in one search we will be able to link our documents, photographs, objects and book collections as well as audio and video files,” Van Fleet said. “We will be able to search for items related to one person – for instance Pomeroy Jordan – or one family – for example, the Spragues – or a specific topic [such as] trolleys or hotels, or farms.” A simple search of “Goddard Mansion” in Cape Elizabeth would yield a rich variety of results: “photos and news articles and two objects – a piece of the marble cornice from the mansion and [Col. John] Goddard’s personal music book – and links to the Goddard family, including a framed family photograph as well as articles about the town’s efforts to preserve the mansion,” Van Fleet said. “By digitizing our town’s history, information will be at our fingertips – and yours, when we finally link records to a long planned website.” The society seeks volunteers with basic computer skills and “a curiosity about what is hidden in the society’s collections” to work on the project on Monday and Thursday mornings, Van Fleet, said. Call Van Fleet at 767-4175 for information about volunteering.

Source: Cape Courier December 16, 2016

Spurwink School Reuse Committee to Consider Options for the future of the Thomas Memorial Library Building that was donated by William Widgery Thomas, Jr.  in 1919.

Update from Cape Elizabeth town website: 3/13/2018

The committee charged with reviewing proposals for reuse of the former Spurwink School/Thomas Memorial Library is poised to recommend the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society as the building's next occupant.

The Town Council on March 12, 2018 voted to extend the deadline for the committee's final report 60 days - to May 11 - to allow a final meeting and to draft a formal recommendation for council consideration.

Receiving the report and considering further action is a 2018 goal for the Town Council.

Extending the committee's deadline is a first step toward that goal, said Council Chair Jessica Sullivan, with a next step, on receipt of the recommendation, to hold a workshop to look more closely at budget and other implications. "If we keep this (building) it needs to be occupied. But I remember well the antecdotal estimates of what it's going to cost to put this building to rights. So I'm sure there is probably going to be a workshop discussion in the near future," she said.

The building is currently located next to the Thomas Memorial Library on Scott Dyer Road, where it served as the children's library before the main library's renovations in 2015-16; and as the town's sole library before it was expanded in 1985. It's been at its current location since 1944, having moved to the town center from its original Bowery Beach Road.

The building was constructed in 1849 as a one-room school house.

"While not on the national historic register, it certainly is a very sentimental building in Cape Elizabeth," Sullivan said.

Town residents in a 2015 survey said they would like to see the building serve a public use. Various parties submitted proposals, but all withdrew except for the Historical Preservation Society.

Jim Rowe, president of the society, told councilors the society is grateful for the space it currently uses in the town's public safety building, but they need more. "History is a cumulative thing, we don't get rid of stuff as quickly as we bring in stuff and so we need more room. The Spurwink School seems like a natural fit," Rowe said.

"Speaking on behalf of the society I'm thrilled to see this memo that committee chairman Garvin passed out tonight because it means the ball is moving forward," he said.

Jamie Garvin, town councilor who is chairing the Spurwink School Committee, agreed that the society's tenancy make sense, but also that a number of questions, "around costs and improvements and necessary repairs and renovations and fit-out for the building," need answers.

He personally apologized for the time it has taken the committee to reach consensus, citing turnover in leadership in the Facilities Department and the withdrawal of competing proposals as some of the reasons.

The committee plans to meet for a formal vote on its recommendation in late March, and to present its report at the council's meeting April 9.


To read a brief history of the library, click here.


2017 visit from the Jordan Family Foundation

Notes from President Jim Rowe's Face Book page.

Today I had the pleasure of welcoming members of the Board of Trustees of the Rev. Robert and Sarah (Winter) Jordan Family Foundation, Inc. to the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society. They hailed not only from Maine, but from across the country.

The Jordan Family is arguably the "First Family" of our fair town. The Rev. Robert and Sarah put down roots here in 1641...not the first settlers, but some of the first inhabitants of Maine to raise a family which endures in the 21st century. Today, the family literally has many many thousands of members living all around the globe.

We toured the current home of the CEHPS at the Cape Elizabeth Public Safety Building, which houses some of the oldest artifacts and documents of the Jordan family.

Then we proceeded to the vacant Spurwink School building, adjacent to the Thomas Memorial Library, into which the Historical Society (along with the Jordan collections) aspire to move one day.

An interesting story that goes with the Spurwink School building is that William Widgery Thomas, Jr., who purchased and then donated the building to the Town of Cape Elizabeth in 1919 with the deeded stipulation that it be forever used as a public library, once taught school there in 1857. During that winter term of 1857, Thomas had 64 pupils in the one room school house...60 of which carried the surname "Jordan!"

The Jordan Family group will be holding its next convention here in the Greater Cape Elizabeth vicinity in 2019.

A late morning and early afternoon well spent with some wonderful people!.