Thirty-eight Harpswell Road, the former Alpha Kappa Sigma fraternity house, is slated for demolition starting this Monday, November 25. The College has yet to finalize plans for the lot.
“We don’t have a timetable or design for the new structure, but we hope it’s in the next few years,” said Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Katy Longley.
According to Longley, proposals for the space have included an arctic museum with additional classroom space.
Now known as Lancaster House, the College acquired the building along with several other former fraternity houses in June 2000.
The building’s renovation was originally scheduled for 2002 or 2003, but the house has since remained empty on Harpswell Road.
In a 2010 Orient Express blog post, Senior Vice President for Planning and Development and Secretary of the College Emeritus Bill Torrey voiced doubts about the viability of renovation plans.
“It was in very bad shape and we didn’t think it was financially smart to renovate it,” Torrey wrote.
Over the past 13 years the College has paid to maintain the external appearance of the house and pay small heating costs.
The Maine Historic Preservation Committee also sent a letter to the school saying the house wasn’t of historical significance. According to Longley, demolition will cost $35,000.
“It is clearly financially imprudent to spend [the] resources [to renovate] on a building that…is neither architecturally nor historically significant,” Longley said in an article posted on the Bowdoin website this week.
The College informed the former chair of the former board of the fraternity about the demolition around a year ago, who understood the reasons for the change. Many other alums feel similarly.
“I always thought the fraternity system was a little outmoded, and that there was a better way to organize people socially,” said Richard Black ’64, former president of Alpha Kappa Sigma.
“It was a lovely old house and I lived there for two years and have some good memories living there, but life moves on and if the school can do something positive with it, that’s okay too,” he said.
According to Longley, the building’s demolition has been under discussion for the past 14 months.
“We talked to the trustees about it in October and we’ve been working on getting a permit from the town of Brunswick,” said Longley. “We received the permit [last] Monday and we start the project on Monday.”
The demolition will take a few days and the whole project will be completed in two to three weeks. That timing will depend on the landscaping process.
Correction, November 22 at 12 p.m.: The article previously stated that the College was reaching out to former alums of Alpha Kappa Sigma about the demolition; it has been corrected to show that the College specifically spoke to the former chair of the former board of the fraternity.