Lawrence Academy Restoration Phases I and I

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Location: 20 Academy Lane, Falmouth MA 02540
Applicant: Town of Falmouth
Grants: $150,000 and $210,000
Year/Article: April 2006, A29 and November 2013, A31

Phase I
Lawrence Academy, a town-owned building being leased to the Chamber of Commerce, was in need of interior rehabilitation in 2006, including restoration and preservation of some of the historical components. The project was estimated to cost $429,782, and the Town requested and was awarded $150,000 from the CPFund.

Lawrence Academy is a 2.5-story building constructed in 1834 in the Greek Revival style. A cupola was replaced in 1976 with the 1835 bell, based on historical views. When the cupola was damaged by Hurricane Bob in 1991, it was replaced again, with an identical unit.

The building is a significant part of the Town’s heritage. Falmouth residents interested in forming a Cape Academy to supplement the public schools incorporated, purchased the property, and built the academy, welcoming its first class to Falmouth Academy in November 1874 before the building was completed. In 1842 the name was changed to Lawrence Academy as a condition of a $10,000 legacy for a permanent trust in the will of Shubael Lawrence. In 1891 the corporation was dissolved and the Town purchased the building for use as a high school. After five years as the Town’s public high school, it was replaced by new shingle style Lawrence High School next to the Public Library until it was demolished in 1954. The old school building was used by the Grand Army of the Republic and later by the Sons of Union Veterans and their auxiliary Women’s Relief Corps until the 1930s. Following World War I, it was renamed Legion Hall and occupied by the American Legion local unit from 1948 to the 1960s. During World War II and the Korean War, the USO also operated a local office in the building, serving troops at Otis Base and Camp Edwards. The building was nearly doubled in size to accommodate the number of social services programs offered there. Since the 1960s, the Chamber of Commerce has occupied the first floor.

In 2006 the building had not been renovated for the previous sixty years. Internal systems were failing, as were window beams, walls, and clapboard. The rehabilitation included repairing or replacing with historically accurate piece work all of the historic components of the building. The second-floor stage was preserved, windows were replaced with replicas of the original units, and second floor wainscoting and the front stairs were restored. The old hardwood floors were sanded and polished. The second floor now provides space for four offices and public meeting rooms, the larger of which can hold thirty-fifty people. The second floor also houses Falmouth’s first Business Cooperative in support of small and start-up businesses. The University of Massachusetts Small Business Development Center provides free weekly in-house counseling.

Other support for the renovation came from business members through donation of design, materials, construction, equipment, wiring, product discounts and carpentry – over $100,000 in in-kind contributions in all. The Town contributed $75,000 and the Chamber of Commerce contributed the remainder of the cost.

Phase II
In 2013, the Town requested $210,000 from the CPFund for replacement of cupola and preservation of front entry portico. The portico had suffered from frost heaving and required removal of the mortar from the joints of the bluestone foundation, repositioning of the stones, and repointing with new mortar. The work included also roof replacement and rehabilitation of the brick chimney, to be funded from other sources, as part of the Chamber’s 2013 Capital Restoration Project. The Chamber of Commerce obtained a certificate of appropriateness for the proposed work from the Falmouth Historic Districts Commission. Work began in 2016.

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