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Volume CXXXIII, Number 5
October 10, 2003

Breckinridge estate put on market

The Breckenridge estate is located in York, Maine. The house was built in 1905 and purchased by Bowdoin in 1974. The College decided to sell the mansion on Tuesday. (courtesy of the Office of Communications)
The Breckinridge estate, which its late owner Mary Brekinridge Patterson once hoped would "go on living, breathing, and serving human beings," is being offered for sale as a family home by Bowdoin.

Situated on the York River in York, Maine, the house was owned by Mary Breckinridge Patterson until her death last year. Patterson spent her summers there and allowed the College to use it during the school year. She passed away last December, and left the property to Bowdoin.

At this point, "the College was faced with the difficult choice of investing a large sum of money in the property or selling it and using the proceeds to strengthen the Breckinridge Fund," President Barry Mills explained in a letter to the Bowdoin Community. The Breckinridge Fund holds money to be used to further the academic mission of the College.

After a year of analyzing the costs and benefits of the property, the College decided to sell Breckinridge rather than commit the financial resources necessary for updating and maintaining the conference center, according to Treasurer and Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Catherine Longley.

"We thought that it might make more sense to apply funds to needs here in Brunswick," said Longley. "The market for conference centers is a tough one, and many schools that do operate them operate them at a loss."

The College has not yet determined whether there will be some type of replacement for the Breckinridge facility.

"When you look at what it takes to have an economically viable conference center, you're looking at a lot of money," Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs Scott Hood added.

"It was not an easy decision. Breckinridge is clearly a wonderful asset and a source of pride for the College, but the money that we would have to put into it is probably better spent elsewhere."

"Our goal was to honor the wishes of Mrs. Patterson," Longley said. "The funds will now go toward causes such as professor benefits, public affairs, and sponsoring lecturers."

Many of those on the Bowdoin campus express regret that Breckinridge is changing hands.

"I'm very sorry to see the College getting rid of [Breckinridge]," said government professor Allen Springer, who annually takes a first-year seminar and a senior seminar to the estate. "It was a real opportunity to get away from the Bowdoin campus and for students to engage in material in a way that I've never seen them do anywhere else."

Students that spent time at the Breckinridge Center feel that it was a unique experience that furthered understanding of material learned in the classroom.

"It's unfortunate that more people didn't take advantage of Breckinridge for their classes," said Charlotte Carlsen '06, who spent two days at Breckinridge last year as part of Springer's first-year seminar, remarked.

"It was fun to get off campus and be in a more relaxed atmosphere that allowed for extended discussion, rather than be in a classroom where discussions were condensed into an hour and a half."

Springer said he believes the time that students spent at Breckinridge was something they remembered fondly throughout their Bowdoin careers.

"I've had people come back years later and say that was the thing they remember best from the time that they were here," he said. "While there, students have a chance to really focus on one thing and engage in discussion in a way that they can't with all the distractions on campus. I think the ambiance of the house itself helps to transport people into a different world."

Patterson formed a partnership with Bowdoin in 1974, so that her family's house "would go on living, breathing, and serving human beings," as she explained in her dedication address in July, 1974. The house was originally designed in 1905 and was rebuilt in 1925 after a fire destroyed much of the structure.

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