Go to content, skip over navigation


More Pages

Go to content, skip over visible header bar
Home News Features Arts & Entertainment Sports OpinionAbout Contact Advertise

Note about Unsupported Devices:

You seem to be browsing on a screen size, browser, or device that this website cannot support. Some things might look and act a little weird.

Heart for history

February 16, 2024

Kaya Patel

I’ll admit it: Maine’s lighthouses entered my imagination long before Bowdoin or the rest of the state did.

First seeing lighthouses in a cartoon at five years old and following it up with a healthy dose of lighthouse books, magazines, models and anything else lighthouse-related I could get my hands on, my love for lighthouses was my first introduction to the state of Maine. Home to over 60 lighthouses (but who’s counting…), Maine is perhaps the American state most intimately associated with lighthouses, the graceful structures that guide ships into port and an iconic element of Maine’s history and culture. By elementary school, I could have told you that Portland Head Lighthouse was commissioned by George Washington, or that West Quoddy Head, the easternmost light with the candy-cane stripes, stands proudly at Maine’s far eastern tip.

So what if I lived 3000 miles away in the California Bay Area? Maine was already, in a sense, a second home. So maybe you can imagine my excitement when, over a decade later, I finally received the news that I would be attending college in Maine.

Before the start of the first semester, I took some time to explore Brunswick and the neighboring town of Bath. A highly underrated town for Bowdoin students, Bath features a centuries-old waterfront lining the Kennebec River that has long been a haven for ship building. Nearby, I eagerly explored the grounds of the Maine Maritime Museum to get a better taste of the region’s rich maritime history.

As I explored Brunswick for the first time, I also learned of its integral role in raising several significant American historical figures. A civil war history buff might wish to visit the storied homes of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Joshua Chamberlain located just off campus, or take a trip to Joshua Chamberlain’s grave, located across the street from Bowdoin’s campus in Pine Grove Cemetery. In Portland, I had a chance to explore the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, home to the poet and former Bowdoin graduate after whom the house was named. Simply put, Maine has long been a haven for artists, writers and activists.

One semester in, I feel incredibly grateful to attend an institution where I can form lasting personal connections with students, faculty and staff at every turn. It was thrilling, even a little startling, to see the extent to which members of the Bowdoin community actually viewed me as a whole individual, not simply a student or a statistic.

But I think one of the greatest untapped privileges of attending Bowdoin is understanding that Maine understands people this way too. Yes, Maine is undeniably beautiful, picturesque, quaint and often quiet. But these are things you can understand about the state by flipping through a travel guide. To live here, however, is to understand that Maine is richly endowed with a culture that cherishes and honors the past even as it amends and reevaluates it. Maine, it seems, is incapable of seeing its people as anything but whole.

But today, many historic sites in Maine are under threat, due to abandonment and neglect, but also due to the man-made disaster of climate change. Recent storm surges swept away centuries-old structures and damaged other’s along Maine’s coast, with the nearby Androscoggin River reaching record high water levels this past winter. I hope that Bowdoin students can recognize just how damaging these developments are to the region they live and study in every day.

I recognize and honor that many Bowdoin students take the time to volunteer in the local community, to put their whole selves into the world beyond the property of Bowdoin. I cherish the fact that so many Bowdoin students seek to experience the natural beauty that Maine has to offer. But beyond these activities, I hope that all of us can, in our own way, thread ourselves into the vibrant cultural fabric of Maine.

Before classes began, I got a chance to visit the West Quoddy Head on my orientation trip to Lubec. Hearing the sound of the fog-bell and leaning against the 1857 brick walls of the light tower with new friends was an exciting and deeply therapeutic experience.

During my time at Bowdoin, I hope to commit myself to understanding Midcoast Maine, not only in the present but seeking its past to understand the place of Bowdoin in it. There is something very grounding, even reassuring, about understanding the region you live in; it enables you to find your place in it.

Andy Robinson is a member of the Class of 2027.


Before submitting a comment, please review our comment policy. Some key points from the policy:

  • No hate speech, profanity, disrespectful or threatening comments.
  • No personal attacks on reporters.
  • Comments must be under 200 words.
  • You are strongly encouraged to use a real name or identifier ("Class of '92").
  • Any comments made with an email address that does not belong to you will get removed.

One comment:

  1. Edie Smith says:

    Andy, thank you for a wonderful article! West Quoddy is a magical place. My great-grandfather, Ephraim Johnson, was lighthouse keeper at West Quoddy from roughly 1900 – 1930. My Mom grew up in Lubec, playing at the lighthouse. Keep exploring Maine! Edie Smith, ’81.

Leave a Reply

Any comments that do not follow the policy will not be published.

0/200 words