I visited Bowdoin for the first time in February 2011 and stayed in one of the hotels at the desperate end of Pleasant Street, right off of Route 295. To the 17-year-old me who had grown up in a beach suburb of Los Angeles, the opposite corner of the nation was more naturally grim than I had expected. Its buildings seemed to abide the weather with an aged melancholy, as if past generations had fought nature and settled for a stalemate that still held. I remember standing in the deserted and windy stretch of restaurants near the College feeling like Brunswick was a literal ghost town.
When I arrived, I had no sense of what New England life was like in any season. I’m not sure I was even aware of Dunkin’ Donuts, let alone Tim Horton’s. My only frame of reference came from school. I was taking AP U.S. History and American Lit, and junior year academic overdrive shoved a heap of historical associations to the front of my mind. Didn’t James Bowdoin put down Shay’s Rebellion? I’d commit suicide too if I was Ethan Frome and I was this cold all the time. Just focus on the tour, geez.
The character that kept popping up was Nathaniel Hawthorne, Class of 1825, whose stories I had recently been reading. It was all so novel—I connected the towers, shadows and lamp-lit walks of the College with the eerie townscapes of his fiction. The dark outlines of the Pines gave off the same foreboding as the forest that swallowed up Goodman Brown, and the severity of colonial houses seemed to hide unknown evils behind closed doors.