Chapel construction to begin in March
The twin towered Bowdoin Chapel, since last year a cocooned, columnar colossus anchoring the east end of the quad, will undergo structural surgery this March, assuming the sun comes out, said David D'Angelo, Director of Facilities Management. College trustees have budgeted $6 million for the facelift, which they hope will correct the spalling that has severely weakened the building-one of several churches designed by the legendary nineteenth century architect Richard Upjohn.
Nearly 150 Maine winters have pried the outer granite loose from the inner walls-which are a full three feet thick-letting moisture penetrate the mortar, freeze in the winter and send some stones tumbling down.
The college's renovation process will ensure the safety and longevity of the 1855 building, D'Angelo said, and will not alter the chapel's interior.
Bowdoin is in negotiations with Consigli Construction of Milford, Massachusetts, to serve as general contractor. The company will take a careful inventory of the shape and placement of the stones so that they can be removed and returned or replaced to match the original pattern.
Donald Borkowski, the College's project manager, said to The Times-Record, "Each and every stone will be dismantled and labeled and lowered to the ground, put on pallets and stored. And then we're going to start rebuilding it right back up again."
After scouring the east coast for granite samples to repair the exterior, Borkowski was about to send away to Europe to find a suitable stone-fine-grained and slightly brown like the original.
A granite sample from Georgia came the closest, but Borkowski was not satisfied with its coloration. He turned to Geology professor emeritus Art Hussey for advice on finding the original source, which college records called "local." Borkowski said local could have referred to any of the New England states. Hussey reported back just before Borkowski, frustrated, prepared to send away to Europe for continental granite samples. Check the LaChance quarry down the road, he said; 'local' could mean Brunswick!" The men decided to take a sample, just in case.
The quarry query unearthed the progenitor. The stone sample matched.
Geoffrey LaChance Sr. has never chanced upon the Upjohn structure, but the 89-year old is proud his granite, which once provided glass-making mica for World War II tanks, will be drafted to replace a quarter of the 1,800 stones that line the chapel spires. Although he has never visited the building, he said he was more than happy to supply the school with 20 loads from the quarry to repair part of the physical fabric of the community.
The Chapel has housed thousands of summer weddings as well as weekly religious services. The east end of the building holds the psychology department and was once home to the College's library. The architect, Richard Upjohn, was an immigrant from England who became president of the American Institute of Architects and is most famous for designing Trinity Church in New York.
President Barry Mills said the renovation's multi-million dollar budget was justified because of the architectural importance of the building, as well as its central place on the campus and in the College's history. "We look forward to returning the chapel to its former splendor," he said.