If you drive down Route 27 towards Boothbay, you’ll notice a small, fake lighthouse on the Left marking the entrance to the Dolphin Mini-Golf course. Past the golf course, nestled between the Ice Cream Hut and the arcade, you’ll see a white covered bridge spanning two artificial ponds Walk to the right side of the bridge and you enter the Kenneth E. Stoddard Shell Museum. The golf course, whole enterprise was built and run by Lee Stoddard and the museum itself was built to fulfill a promise that Lee made to his dying father Kenneth.
It Started During the War
During World War II, Kenneth Stoddard served in the South Pacific as a Navy ship repairman. During his his off-hours, he would go ashore to whatever island the ship was near and collect sea shells. Every couple of weeks, he’d send a box home packed with fiberglass insulation to protect the shells. The boxes accumulated and eventually ended up hidden away in the attic. A fire nearly destroyed the collection but the heat actually melted the fiberglass in the boxes but the shells were unharmed.
Fast forward to the 1980s and Kenneth is battling cancer. He called his son and said he had 6 months to live. So his two sons Lee and Bob made a promise to their father that they would make sure his shells would be displayed in a museum. But they wanted to do something different, so they told him that they would build a bridge in his name to display the shells. Lee was finishing a long career as a contractor so had the skills (and now the time).
Mini Golf and More
In 1991, Lee and Bob built and opened Dolphin Mini Golf. A year later, they opened the Ice Cream Hut. Then in 1993, they built what still is the only covered bridge in Lincoln County.
The bridge is 55 feet long and 14 feet wide and was modeled after a covered bridge at Ashuelot, New Hampshire. It has exposed lattice trusses that support the roof and rests on poured concrete bases. It is painted white with red trim and red shingles cover the roof. There is a covered walkway along the outside.
Even through no vehicles will ever cross the bridge, and it only sits a few feet above the ground, it is required by the State of Maine to pass inspection and be certified as an official bridge. It is bridge 19-08a. You can look it up.
The collection is now one of the largest private collections of seashells in the world numbering in the thousands. It is displayed in rows of glass covered wooden cases along both walls and in a longcenter case spanning the length. The shells are from all over the world and are neatly labeled. In retirement, Lee continued his father’s hobby of collecting. He and his wife managed to visit all 50 states which gave him ample opportunity to add to the collection. Some shells have also been donated.
For many years, Lee, who was very active in the US ProMiniGolf Association, hosted tournaments at Dolphin and the Dolphin continues to host the Maine State mini golf tournament every year. A highlight was being the first place outside of Myrtle Beach to host the US Open of Mini Golf in 2008. Through the golf course, the family has raised over $100,000 for the Shriners Hospital for Children.
Lee Stoddard passed away in 2018. The museum, along with the golf course, ice cream stand, and newly renovated arcade are still running. A scholarship in Lee’s name is given out at Boothbay High School for someone entering the vocational fields. A portion of the entry fees from the annual golf tournament go towards the scholarship. Lee was elected the the Pro Mini Golf Hall of Fame in 2015. There is a video on the Salt Story Archive about the shell museum.