Story-filled house at 6 Boody set to become presidential residence next year
March 31, 2023
The Helmreichs, the Baxters and now Bowdoin College are just three of the many past owners of 6 Boody Street, President-elect Safa Zaki’s future home. The December 2022 purchase of the 1927 structure marks the next chapter in a history intertwined with Bowdoin’s.
Plans for the house’s acquisition were developed well before Zaki was selected as the College’s next president. Concerns arose among members of the presidential search committee about the ability of the current presidential house on 79 Federal Street to attract a wide array of candidates.
“One concern that emerged was whether 79 Federal would work well for families with younger children,” Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Matt Orlando wrote in an email to the Orient. “We also hoped to offer our new president and future presidents a house with a floor plan more conducive to hosting family and guests and a yard that provided more privacy.”
Since 1997, the Wild family, who own and operate a construction and design company in the Brunswick area, has inhabited the house. Sue and Mark Wild raised their children at 6 Boody, which Sue Wild recalls fondly.
The Wilds acquired the house from Paul and Jonathan Helmreich. The Helmreichs inherited the property from their late father, Ernst Helmreich, a professor of history and political science at Bowdoin for more than 40 years, for whom Helmreich House is named.
Paul and Jonathan Helmreich grew up in the Boody Street house, which Sue Wild says has not changed too much since it was constructed.
“Although we have remodeled a lot of the home, we maintained all the woodwork and much of the original light and plumbing fixtures. The carriage house/garage was still standing when we purchased the home, but was replaced in 2000 with a garage that could accommodate modern cars!” she wrote in an email to the Orient.
Ernst Helmreich and his wife, Louise, purchased the house from Marjorie Prince Riley in 1929. The Riley family name remains prominent in the Brunswick area through its ownership of Maine Street’s Riley Insurance Agency.
The 6 Boody Street lot was originally three parcels of land, one sold to Riley by Francis R. Johnson in 1926 and two by Constance French Baxter in 1926 and 1927. Baxter was married to John Lincoln Baxter, Class of 1916, who later became an instructor in German and trustee of the College.
In 1932, a plot of land across the street—7 Boody—was developed, and what would become Reed House was constructed. Though there will now be two college-owned properties in close proximity to one another, Orlando does not believe that the presidential house will have any negative ramifications on Reed House or on neighboring town residents.
“Unlike our other College houses, Reed House is embedded in a quiet neighborhood and through the years has amicably coexisted,” Orlando wrote. “As we always do for residential properties, the College will increase its annual contribution so that the town is made whole for any lost property tax revenue.”
Sue Wild noted her excitement for President-elect Zaki to move into 6 Boody and continue the long legacy of Boody Street’s connection to the College.
“We are happy that President Zaki and her family will be living here!” she wrote.
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I loved that house! My grandparents lived there and my dad was raised there. When I attended Bowdoin many of my friends would attend Sunday dinner with me and my Brother Jim ’81. One of my favorite memories is of the time I stopped in to visit and both Thomas R. Pickering and George Mitchel were in the living room discussing history and politics with grandpa. As a Government major it was fun to just sit on the couch and listen and learn. Those Sunday dinners were often attended by many of the Bowdoin community it will be a wonder place for the President’s residence.
My late husband, Paul C. Helmreich, Professor of European History at Wheaton College in Norton, MA, grew up in that house, and shared many fond memories of it. Working in the vegetable garden; picnics out by the garage; listening to baseball games on the radio; singing around the piano (and hating his piano lessons); acting as a waiter at faculty dinners hosted by his parents; coming home from school to find that George Mitchell, then a student, was sitting in “his” spot on the sofa; sneaking in late from dates and checking the clock at the head of the stairs. He continued to visit as his parents aged, and was once stopped by George Mitchell’s security staff as he came in the door with groceries! Most of all he loved playing baseball in the field (the Polo Grounds) in back of the house with neighborhood friends of all ages (I believe this has now been developed). I am delighted, as Paul would be, to know that this beloved house will become a happy home for the new Bowdoin president!