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A brief history of MECDHH/GBSD and Mackworth Island

14,000 BC 

Native Americans begin migrating to the area from the Arctic following the melting glaciers at the end of the last ice age. Mackworth Island would have been an ideal location as it is the closest island to the mainland and sits at the mouth of the Presumpscot River making the island accessible from the interior of the state. Artifacts found on the island by the Baxter family are housed in the Maine State Museum in  Augusta, Maine.

For more information on the history of Falmouth, Maine and Mackworth Island, follow the links below. 



The Portland School for the Deaf opens in Portland, Maine.



James Phinney Baxter, a 6-term mayor of Portland, purchases Mackworth Island and builds a summer home for his large family.

Historical photo of baxter school from early 1900s



Upon James P. Baxter’s death the island is bequeathed to his son Percival. Following in his father’s footsteps, Percival becomes a state legislator as well as governor of Maine for 2 terms (1921-1925).


Percival Baxter sells Mackworth Island to the state for $1.00. He requests the state use the island as the site for the newly-named Maine School for the Deaf. He donates $500,000 for the building of the school, and $175,000 for the construction of a causeway connecting the mainland to the island.



Construction on the school begins.


The Portland School for the Deaf moves to Mackworth Island and formally changes its name to Governor  Baxter School for the Deaf. The school provides education for deaf children grades K-12 with some preschool services. Students live on campus in dormitories, returning home for holidays and summer vacations, from 1957- 2009.


Today the island houses the site-based Governor Baxter preschool for deaf and hard of hearing children and their hearing peers, as well as the school’s administrative offices. Locally, grades K-12 attend site based programs within Portland Public Schools. There is also a site-based program in Brewer, Maine.  Outreach programs blanket the state serving deaf and hard of hearing children, and their families, from birth to age 20.

Services include, but are not limited to, Early Intervention, Specially Designed Instruction (SDI), Consultation, Evaluations, Speech Therapy, Social Emotional programming, Individualized Family Service  Plan (IFSP), 504 and IEP involvement, family programming and interpreting referral services. These services are also available to all local education agencies for deaf and hard of hearing students placed in a site-based program in Falmouth, Brewer, and Fort Fairfield.