The College is contesting a local family’s claim that Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her classic novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” in the house they are selling at 28 College Street.
Arline Pennell Lay, the owner of the home, has listed the house with Tele Properties for $3 million. According to the Wall Street Journal, Lay said that she knows Stowe wrote the famous novel in her home (originally located on Park Row) based on receipts found under the house.
The College and many local historians believe that the book was written at the College’s 63 Federal Street property known as Stowe House.
“The evidence to date—supported by the historical record, by Stowe scholars and by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, among others—shows that Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ at her home located at 63 Federal Street and at Appleton Hall, where her husband had a study,” wrote Scott Hood, vice president for communication and public affairs, in an email to the Orient.
“As far as documented evidence goes—now by documented evidence I mean Stowe’s correspondence and that of the family members that lived in the house with her—the book was written at 63 Federal Street where she lived for about two years, from 1851 to 1852,” said Associate Professor of Africana Studies and English Tess Chakkalakal, who is currently co-teaching a course on Uncle Tom’s Cabin with Professor of English Peter Coviello.
Ernie Carswell, the realtor selling the Lay property at 28 College Street, said that he has to trust Lay.
“We are allowed to quote our client’s claims if there is reasonable evidence those claims are valid,” he wrote in an email to the Orient, adding that because his firm is based in California, it has to rely heavily on the information provided by Lay.
Chakkalakal says that to prove its claim the Lay family has to provide some sort of documentation, such as a letter.
According to the Portland Press Herald, Lay’s house on College Street is being marketed in Southern California to celebrities interested in Stowe’s history.
“I think it’s kind of cool that people believe that there is so much value in Stowe having written the book somewhere,” Chakkalakal said, adding that she thought that it would take away from Stowe’s history and legacy in Brunswick if the book was not written at 63 Federal Street.
“That’s the reason why the College bought the house—to preserve that history,” Chakkalakal said. “I hate to think that the only legacy of Stowe in Brunswick is that someone is able to sell their house for $3 million... I feel like it diminishes her contribution to American history.”