The house where Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her famous novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," currently lies vacant on Bowdoin-owned property.
But if the College can raise the money necessary, it intends to restore the building to its former condition.
"We feel an obligation to keep it and restore it said," said Senior Vice-President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Katy Longley, who is directing the project.
In 2001, Bowdoin bought the house at 63 Federal St. in a $1.3-million purchase that also included a newer building, which was formerly operated as a hotel and was subsequently converted into college dormitories.
Stowe lived in the house between 1850 and 1852 while her husband taught at Bowdoin.
Historians cite "Uncle Tom's Cabin" as contributing to the mobilization of the abolitionist cause prior to the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln famously referred to Stowe as "the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war."
U.S. Congressman Tom Allen '67, D-Maine, last year helped Bowdoin get a $99,000 federal appropriation to fund a feasibility study for the house restoration.
The analysis, which is a necessary preliminary step to restoration, will include paint and wallpaper analyses, research of Stowe and local history, and an assessment of possible uses for the house.
The College hopes that the federal money will be received before the end of the year.
The federal appropriation made its way into the "2006 Congressional Pig Book," a list of Congressional earmarks published by a political group called Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW). CAGW opposes all Congressional earmarks, federal monies set aside by congressmen to fund specific projects typically in their home districts.
"We're not saying that every project in the 'Pig Book' is wasteful, we're just saying that the process is wasteful.," said Tom Finnigan, media manager for CAGW.
"It completely bypassed the normal procedure for budget review," he said.
"Tom has a lot of concerns about the way business is done in Washington," said Allen spokesman Mark Sullivan, "but in this case we were pleased to help. We think the restoration of [Stowe House] is something very important."
Longley agreed that the value of the project justified the appropriation.
"It isn't like this is a big pork barrel project," Longley said.
At a meeting held last week in Massachusetts Hall, members of the Bowdoin and Brunswick communities brainstormed possible funding sources as well as ways in which the house could be used after its restoration.
Longley organized the meeting and was joined by Bowdoin administrators from Facilities Management and Corporate and Foundation Relations. Also in attendance were representatives from the Maine Historical Preservation Commission, the Pejepscot Historical Society, the Town of Brunswick, Maine Preservation, and the office of State Senator Beth Edmonds.
Longley estimated that the complete renovation cost would fall between $3 million and $4 million.
Since the house will not serve core academic needs, the College has decided that it will not borrow funds for the restoration or use money from its general funds.
According to Longley, a proposal for funding from the Getty Foundation has been turned down, but she hopes that the College might reapply.
Since the house is on the National Register of Historic Places, those at the meeting expressed hope that the project would receive funding from Save American's Treasures, a partnership between the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Meeting attendees concurred that at least part of the house should be restored to the condition it was in during Stowe's occupancy. Several people expressed their belief that the house should not solely be a museum because museum attendance is generally spotty.
One idea was to use the building for a service learning program. Other ideas included using it to pay homage to the Underground Railroad and creating a "Harriet Beecher Stowe Center for the Common Good," which could take advantage of the house's location between the Bowdoin campus and the rest of the town.