2012-08-24 / Community

A Window on the Past

Thornton Heights Community Club
By Kathryn DiPhilippo
South Portland Historical Society

This eighth-grade class of 1935 attended school at the community club. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Bagley) This eighth-grade class of 1935 attended school at the community club. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Bagley) At the South Portland Historical Society’s museum at Bug Light Park, a different neighborhood is featured in one of the exhibits each year.

While we enjoy exhibiting photographs and artifacts from the society’s archives, we also like to use the exhibit to encourage museum-goers to help us fill gaps in the society’s collections. With the 2012 Thornton Heights exhibit, we have already had some visitors return with artifacts related to some of the old restaurants and stores on Main Street, along with various photographs from the neighborhood.

One piece of Thornton Heights history that we are seeking your help with is the Thornton Heights Community Club. The clubhouse building was located at 632 Main St., on the corner of Thornton Avenue, on the site now occupied by Knights Inn. The club appears to have been active in the 1920s and 1930s. The South Portland school system leased classroom space in the building in the 1930s to provide relief for overcrowding at Thornton Heights School. Schools across the city faced similar overcrowded conditions as the school population grew from 1,941 in 1920 to 3,567 in 1930. Even construction of the Lincoln, Kaler, and Roosevelt Schools in the 1920s didn’t fix the problems.

The accompanying 1935 photograph comes to us courtesy of Kevin Bagley. It shows the eighth-grade class that attended school at Thornton Heights Community Club. While some students in Thornton Heights attended school at this leased facility, other students in Ferry Village shared a similar situation as they attended school in a leased classroom in the Knights of Pythias Hall on the corner of Preble and High streets.

We would like to learn more about the Thornton Heights Community Club – who met there, what activities took place there – and we are also seeking a photograph of the building. In the 1940s, the building became home to Allen’s Laundry Co., run by Raymond Allen. By the mid-1950s, the Sandman Motel was built on the site. If you have any information to share, please contact the South Portland Historical Society at 767-7299, sphistoricalsociety@mai ne.rr.com, or at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106.

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