BRUNSWICK — Unless someone steps forward soon, a century-old house near the Bowdoin College campus may be no more than a footnote in a history book.
The Village Review Board will consider granting the college permission to demolish the house at 15 Bath Road, after it heard an update Tuesday about the college’s unsuccessful search for someone who would move the home.
The board tabled the issue until Sept. 20, when it could grant Bowdoin a certificate of appropriateness.
The house, which dates back to the late 1820s, is a two-story Federal-Greek Revival-style residence. A Historic Preservation Survey says it was the pre-1910 home of Charles P. Willett, but other than age attributes it no specific historical significance.
Because the house exists in the Federal Street Historic District, a town ordinance requires the college to wait out a 90-day period during which it must make a “good-faith effort” to seek community interest in relocating the building. The 90-day period began June 21.
The college purchased the house on May 16 from its prior owner, former Bowdoin professor William Watterson, and intends to demolish the building and landscape the area to form a lawn between two other buildings it owns, Rhodes House and Copeland House.
No one from the community spoke during the public hearing portion of Tuesday’s meeting, but residents have expressed their concern about the college’s intentions elsewhere.
Marilyn Nulman and Marji Greenhut, both of Noble Street, wrote a letter to The Forecaster in July bemoaning Bowdoin’s intention to demolish old buildings they believe contribute to the historic character of the town. They said they are afraid another college-owned house at the intersection of Noble Street and Maine Street will meet a similar fate as 15 Bath Road, and further change the aesthetic of Brunswick’s downtown area.
Neither Nulman or Greenhut could be reached for comment after the review board meeting, but in an interview on July 29, Nulman said “everything does not need to be ripped down” and that the college should instead consider preserving and re-purposing the old buildings as offices.
However, in their application to the Village Review Board dated June 7, the College states “the house has been deemed unsafe by the Brunswick Fire Department and the building is in uninhabitable condition.” The included a project proposal that outlines the necessary work required for rehabilitation – at the minimum, the house needs a “gut level renovation” – which the college determined to be economically unfeasible.
Their claims are backed up in letter to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission included in the application materials written by Government Land Use Specialist Catherine Ferdinand, who said the Bath Road building is in “a significant state of disrepair.”
Del Wilson, Bowdoin’s director of finance and campus services, told the board Tuesday that so far, none of the local organizations he’s reached out to – most of which are historical societies – have expressed interest in relocating the building.
He said it is not the college’s responsibility to perform the move. That job would be up to the new owner.
Bowdoin College, which owns this house at 15 Bath Road, is waiting out a 90-day period that has to pass before the structure can be demolished.