2017-08-11 / Community

A Window on the Past

Donation of photos benefits historical society
By Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo
South Portland Historical Society


South Portland firefighters prepare the old South Portland Heights School for burning in October 1962. (Courtesy photos) South Portland firefighters prepare the old South Portland Heights School for burning in October 1962. (Courtesy photos) We were so pleased to be visited by Cindy DeCapua, who came in this past week with some old snapshots that she had in an album from the 1960s. Cindy donated a series of photographs that now help us to document the final day of South Portland Heights School’s existence.

South Portland Heights School was located on Sawyer Street, next to Bay View Cemetery. The school was built around 1897 and for much of its history served sub-primary (kindergarten) through third grades. When the school was built, it was just to the right of the old South Portland Town Hall that was located on the corner of Sawyer and Ocean streets (where Hamlin School would later be built). Indeed, in several photos of our old town hall, we can see the old Heights School off to the side.

After the school was closed in 1960, the building was turned over to the South Portland Fire Department so it could use it for training purposes. The collection of photos from Cindy DeCapua show the building on its last day in October 1962, including the following: a street level view of the building with the cemetery showing behind it; people and fire trucks gathered around the building, the fire overtaking the building with the firefighters controlling the blaze, and finally, the smoking remains of the building.


Neighbors look on as the South Portland Fire Department conducts a controlled burn of the South Portland Heights School on Sawyer Street in 1962. Neighbors look on as the South Portland Fire Department conducts a controlled burn of the South Portland Heights School on Sawyer Street in 1962. If you have photos or artifacts that are part of South Portland’s past, please give us a call at 767-7299, or stop by for a visit at the museum at Bug Light Park.

In other news, Susan McLellan Plaisted will be at the museum at Bug Light Park this Saturday, Aug. 12 with a living history demonstration, “One Lump or Two: Tea in the 18th Century.” This is an ongoing event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., so feel free to drop by anytime to learn about the history of tea, how tea was served, and sample two 18th century teas. Bring your own tea cup, learn and have some fun.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of South Portland Historical Society.

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