Kristin Sanborn has fond memories of the small school in the middle of Monmouth where she learned more than just ABCs. She formed lifelong friendships, a love of learning, and a sense of pride in her community in this small rural town.

Sanborn and a group of other townsfolk have worked tirelessly over the past few years to save the old Monmouth Academy from the wrecking ball and development of the prime real estate across from the new middle and high schools.

The original academy was built in 1803 but was destroyed in a fire. It was rebuilt in 1856 with additions in 1914, and the front portico was designed by the famous architect Harry Cochrane in the 1940s.

From its inception until the 1970s, the school was a tuition-based institution for the surrounding communities. It became the area’s public school until the need for a larger high school that was built across the street in 1989 and the grade school in 2021. It is part of Regional School Unit 2, formed in 2009.

Giant beams supporting the structure in the basement of the original Monmouth Academy building are still solid. Organizers are seeking more funding to complete the restoration of the historic school in Monmouth. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

After decades of neglect there was much discussion, and a rebuilding committee was formed to explore options. In 2021, voters approved $1.7 million for demolition of the 1950s additions and gymnasium and reconstruction of the original 1856-1914 structure.

When COVID-19 hit, cost overruns threatened to stall the project with it only about halfway completed. Voters will decide next month if they want to allocate another $700,000 to complete the project. The original loan would still need to be repaid but the building would not be completed without additional funds.


When it is completed, plans are to use it for town meetings, voting and receptions, and make it available to rent for private functions. It would be one of the only spots in town available for functions with food service. While there are no plans for a full kitchen, it will be equipped to accommodate catering.

Some of the more famous graduates of the academy include: Alonzo Garcelon, 36th governor of Maine; Gen. O.O. Howard (Howard University); John Frank Stevens, chief engineer of the Panama Canal; Adm. Joseph Fowler, contractor for the Disney properties; and Harry Cochrane, a renaissance man who painted the murals inside the Kora Shrine in Lewiston and Cumston Hall in Monmouth.

Electrical and plumbing still exists in the basement of the original Monmouth Academy building. Organizers are seeking more funding to complete the restoration of the historic school in Monmouth. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The demolition of the newer additions has been completed and the interior has been stripped to the studs and is ready for insulation and sheetrock with new windows in place. The bell tower has been removed and is in the process of being reconstructed, including replacing the copper dome at the top. A much-needed new roof has been installed.

Other plans include installing a generator and shower facilities for emergency shelter use. A loan of $700,000, to be repaid over several years, is required with an estimated additional tax burden of $20 per year for a property valued at $200,000. Grants and donations will help offset the cost.

For more information, visit, or its Facebook page, Restore Monmouth Academy. Donations can be sent to the town of Monmouth, 859 Main St, Monmouth, ME 04259 — please note 1856 Monmouth Academy in the memo.

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