Emotions flowed for members of Alpha Kappa Sigma when a handful of alums visited their former fraternity house on November 26. The demolition process commenced November 25 on the house, which is located at 38 Harpswell Road and is now referred to as Lancaster House by the College.
“It was sad walking through the house as it was being prepped for demolition and seeing what it was like today versus what it was like when we were there,” said Roger Tuveson ’64 in a phone interview with the Orient. “Naturally, you get a little bit of melancholy and a little bit nostalgic when you think of some of the memories.”
Tuveson was not the only former member who reminisced on memories associated with the house. Several alumni singled out one memory in particular from their time in the fraternity.
In the early 1960s, the Bowdoin chapter of the national fraternity Kappa Sigma broke from the national group and became Alpha Kappa Sigma. The Bowdoin chapter, after deciding to pledge a non-white student, was forced by the national organization to either depledge the student or leave the national fraternity.
“Unanimously, [the fraternity members] said, ‘Tell [the national representative] to leave the property and never come back. We’re quitting the national,’” said Richard Black ’64. “We made a decision to leave Kappa Sigma as a national fraternity because of their racial policy.”
David Humphrey ’61 and Tuveson also noted this moment as one in which they were most proud of the fraternity and the community it fostered.
Humphrey brought a copy of the June 1958 Alpha Rho Crescent, a fraternity newsletter, with him to the house. One article entitled “Wine, Women and Song!” recalls fond memories of winter house parties thrown by the fraternity.
“Following the frantic first semester exam period winter house parties rolled around,” reads the article. “Nobody, but nobody, was without a date. The bar was very popular on Saturday night and the dancing to the Bowdoin jazz band was great.”
The fraternity alumni also held prominent memories of seasonal weekends at the house.
“One of the winter weekends, we had a snow sculpture which won top prize for the frat,” said Tuveson. “It was very competitive and the theme was Bowdoin. We had a very talented young freshman or sophomore who took it upon himself to design the snow sculpture. He made a small replica of the Clydesdale wagon with a polar bear hauling it with a sign that read ‘Bowdoin Makes Budweiser.’”
Though some members are disappointed with the demolition of the house, they are understanding of the College’s reasoning.
“I wasn’t surprised [by the demolition],” said Bill Springer ’65. “It’s sad, but I knew it was going to happen. I was just wondering why it took so long.”
Right now, the College is tentatively planning to build a new arctic museum with classroom space on the empty lot. The College received a donation for the museum but is still currently fundraising for the project, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Katy Longley said in an email to the Orient.
Other former members are unhappy with the College’s decision to tear down the building.
“The [fraternity] houses were a very meaningful part of the college life and style,” said George Eliades ’64 in a phone interview with the Orient.
Eliades is also unhappy with the new plans for 38 Harpswell Road.
“By today’s standards, the house itself is no longer, shall we say, sympathetic to the College campus itself,” said Eliades. “I’m not sure that [a new arctic museum] would be very much in character with that corner of Harpswell and College [Street], but that’s just my opinion.”
The house has since been knocked down and the whole demolition project will be completed in the near future, depending on the landscaping process.