History

The original structure of what was to become the Thomas Memorial Library was built in 1849 as a one-room school house on Bowery Beach Road, about a quarter mile from the intersection of Fowler Road. Among its early instructors was William Widgery Thomas, Jr. who was employed for the winter term of 1857 for a stipend of $122.50.

In 1877, this yellow clapboard schoolhouse was repaired and relocated to Fowler Road near the Spurwink Grange Hall. A decline in pupils led to the school’s closing in 1913 and three years later the building was purchased for $150.00 by Phineas Sprague. Mr. Sprague moved the 26×36 structure to land near the farm of Pomroy Jordan on Spurwink Avenue apparently planning to convert it into a pigsty.

William Widgery Thomas Jr. purchased the building in 1917 and by 1919 moved it back to its original site on land that was donated to Thomas by Pomroy Jordan. On February 7, 1919, Thomas wrote to the Town Selectmen offering to the Town as a free gift the library lot, the library building thereon, books, furnishings and equipment. After repairs funded by Mr. Thomas were completed, the Thomas Memorial Library was dedicated on Tuesday, April 22, 1919.

After an active start, use of the library waned in the 1930’s as the population of the Spurwink area of Cape Elizabeth declined. By 1942, the library was especially quiet as gas rationing discouraged citizens in many areas of the Town from traveling to it. Consequently, in December 1943, the Town meeting unanimously voted to appropriate $2500.00 to move the building to the school grounds although there had been objections to placing “so small a building…on the school grounds.” On July 5, 1944, the original building was moved to the present site, and on October 17, 1944 it reopened.

In 1957, the town meeting appropriated $9250.00 for a 46×30 addition to house additional stack space, a children’s room and a reference area. $2000 for the project was donated by both the Sprague and Thomas Memorial Foundations and an additional $5000 was approved by the Town in 1958. On October 10, 1958, the expanded facility was opened.

By 1967, the Thomas Memorial Library again needed more space. An entry way was added and a new children’s room was developed in the basement. The Cape Elizabeth Lion’s Club funded this work with an $11,000 contribution.

Library Trustees in 1978 noted that once again the library was in need of space. An addition was designed in 1980 but was not funded as the Town Council wished to consider use of school space. In 1981, a special committee unanimously agreed that a combined School/Town library would not be feasible. Also in 1981, the Town Council considered razing the Pond Cove School Annex and constructing a new building on its site. In June 1981, the Council put plans on hold and asked for a study of all community facilities. This report called for additional library space and for reuse of the Pond Cove School Annex. In 1983, the Town Council formed a committee to study the Annex and this committee recommended in June 1984 that the former Annex and the library should be connected and utilized as a library and Community Center. On August 13, 1984, the Town Council approved the expenditure of up to $590,000 for the proposed work.

Subsequently, local citizens donated over $67,000 to provide for furnishing for the “new” Thomas Memorial Library. The new facilities were designed by Portland Design Team, with the guidance of an active building committee, and were constructed by Donbury, Inc. The former Annex section was opened as the adult section of the Thomas Memorial Library on December 2, 1985. The Children’s Library relocated on the first floor of the original building with its additions on December 30, 1985. A community room in the basement of the original building was completed in January 1986. The rededication of the Thomas Memorial Library took place February 9, 1986.

Timeline

1849 The original library structure was built as a one-room school house on Bowery Beach Road.

1857 William Widgery Thomas, Jr. taught the winter term for a stipend of $122.50.

1877 This yellow clapboard schoolhouse was repaired and relocated to Fowler Road, near the Spurwink Grange Hall.

1913 A decline in enrollment led to the school’s closing.

1916 The 24 x 36 school building was purchased for $150 by Phineas Sprague.
It was moved to land near the farm of Pomroy Jordan on Spurwink Avenue apparently planning to convert it to a pigsty.

1917 William Widgery Thomas, Jr. purchased the building and by 1919 moved it back to its original site on land that was donated to Mr. Thomas by Pomroy Jordan.

1919 Mr. Thomas wrote the Town Selectmen offering to the town: the library lot, the library building thereon, books, furnishings and equipment. After repairs funded by Mr. Thomas were completed, the Thomas Memorial Library was dedicated on as a gift to the town on April 22.

1930’s The library had an active start, however, its use waned in the 30’s as the population of the Spurwink area declined.

1944 By now, the library was especially quiet as gas rationing discouraged citizens of the town from traveling to it. The town decided to move the building to the “school grounds” at a cost of $2,500. It was reopened on October 17 at its present site.

1958 The library was expanded by a 46 x 30 addition to house additional stack space, a children’s room and a reference area.

1967 By this time, more space was need. An Entry way was added and a new children’s room was developed in the basement.

1978 Again, it was determined that the library was in need of more space. Over the next 5 years, alternatives were carefully considered.

1983 The Town Council formed a committee to study the reuse of the Pond Cove School Annex as additional library space. The committee recommended that the former Annex and the library be connected and utilized as a library and Community Center.

1984 A combination of public and private funds were used to construct the connector as well as provide new furnishings. The connector also accommodates the checkout desk and gallery space.

1985 As a result of the earnest efforts of town officials and active citizens, the former Annex was opened as the adult section, and the children’s library relocated in the original building and its addition by the end of the year.

1986 A rededication ceremony was held on February 9, 1986.

(Extracted from: “History of the Thomas Memorial Library Building”, in the February 9, 1986 rededication booklet.)