Bowdoin College – Harriet Beecher Stowe House

Brunswick, Maine

Originally constructed in 1805 for Benjamin Titcomb by noted Brunswick master builder Samuel Melcher, the house at 63 Federal Street in Brunswick was home to distinguished residents such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, then a student at Bowdoin College.  It was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1963.  The house was purchased by Bowdoin in 2001.

Its most famous resident was Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin while living here.  Stowe and her family rented the house while her husband Calvin Ellis Stowe was Professor of Natural and Revealed Religion at Bowdoin (1850-1852).  While attending a service at First Parish Church, Mrs. Stowe had a vision of the death of a slave named Uncle Tom.  From this small spark grew the serialized story which became the influential book Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Following the residency of the Stowe family the structure remained a private residence until 1946, when it became an inn.  Bowdoin College commissioned B+W for a Historic Structure Report to determine the history and evolution of this building.  A primary concern was the identification of any surviving fabric from the Stowe family’s residency.

The report is organized into two volumes.  The first volume of the report includes measured drawings, documentation of existing conditions, paint and material analyses, examination of construction methods employed in original construction and later alterations, and historical research.  The second volume presents preservation and maintenance recommendations, as well as two possible restoration approaches.  Our approach preserves spaces that retain their historic appearance and fabric, and inserts modern necessities in already compromised spaces.  All the recommendations are based on the findings of the first volume of the report and follow Secretary of the Intentions for treatment.

The rehabilitation project evolved as a construction managed project where B+W was engaged to prepare construction documents, negotiate equivalencies with the State Fire Marshal, and follow through construction administration to completion.

Bowdoin College ultimately decided to create faculty offices and dedicate one of the original parlors to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Writing Room, that is open to the public.

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