Place: Alpha Kappa Sigma House

Location: 38 Harpswell Road

Intrigued by rumors of the old fraternity house on the corner of Harpswell Rd. and College St., I made it my mission this week to uncover the truth. Was it true that members of the Alpha Kappa Sigma house poured wet cement down sinks and toilets to destroy the plumbing system? Why had the college not done anything with the house since its purchase ten years ago? My imagination ran wild. I called Jeff Tuttle, associate director of facilities, asked for a tour of the building and began my research.

The Bowdoin Kappa Sigma Chapter House Corporation was formed May 20, 1905. One member, Edward A. Duddy, wrote in the Caduceus of January, 1906: "The contract for the house was let in June, 1905, ground broken up in July, and we went into the house November 6. The house is neat, pretty and well balanced in style, situated on a corner lot next the campus, with plenty of trees and lawn about." Apparently, the house was not only appreciated by fraternity members. The following Caduceus letter, from February of 1906, states: "The fair maids of Brunswick unite in declaring our house one of the prettiest here."

Stepping onto the once-grand porch of Alpha Kappa Sigma, I wondered what the white house had seen in its 104 years of standing. Tuttle explained that the shell of the building was in visibly rigid condition, however, the insides of the house would have to be gutted and renovated to bring the building up to par with safety codes before opening.

Alpha Kappa Sigma was purchased by Bowdoin College from the fraternity corporation in the summer of 2000.

According to Facility's carpenter Mike Taylor, "They trashed this place when they closed it—I was a contractor at the time."

Tuttle noted that there had been homeless people sleeping in it for a while because it was empty and heated—but that the college stopped heating the building approximately three years ago.

We opened the door to a large front hall covered with decorative wood paneling. I walked up rickety stairs and explored brightly painted rooms sprinkled with a variety of graffiti. I discovered, written in black permanent marker on a wall, a testament to Alpha Kappa Sigma loyalty: "There are a lot of stories in these walls, but the people in them will always be alive and young in our hearts and minds. I love you Kappa Sig - Repho."

I wanted to know more about the people who had once filled the house. Rifling through a musty red-covered book titled "Alpha-Rho Chapter of Kappa Sigma 1895-1945," I found a collection of brief personal sketches of initiates. There were a variety of creative initiation rituals, including forcing one freshmen to lie in a coffin while the Chapter sang "Nearer My God To Thee."

According to Dwight Andrews '31, there was a "Proc Night" (a "free-for-all," which college authorities moved outdoors due to damage done by water, paste and feathers) and a 20-mile Freshman Walk.

"At midnight, the men were blindfolded and driven to a deserted spot and left to fend for themselves. Some of them were able to get rides, but a few came stumbling in just in time for classes," he said.

The members of Alpha Kappa Sigma were a lively, mischievous bunch. Andrews recollected that when the college decided to erect a 100-foot flag pole in the center of the Quad as a World War I memorial, the student body unanimously disapproved.

One night, summoned by the chapel bell, Alpha Kappa Sigma hands picked up the pole, carried it into the Chapel and left it with one end sticking out of the door. It took the entire maintenance department, a few faculty, one horse and miles of rope to extract the pole—and the placement of the flagpole was reevaluated and changed to its current location.

The Alpha Kappa Sigma house stands empty now, a sharp contrast from its once-spirited interior. At present, though there have been numerous proposals for what the building could be used for, the College does not have any plans for renovation. The house is not void of a vibrant past, however. Our predecessor's stories offer insight to our own college experiences.

A close investigation of seemingly vacant spaces on campus can lead to unexpected historical adventures. Go have your own!