Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Memorial Hall, including Pickard Theater and Wish Experimental Theater

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Institution Name: Bowdoin College
Original/Historic Place Name: Memorial Hall
Location on Campus: on historic quadrangle
Date(s) of Construction:
1867-1882original design Backus, Samuel D. McKim, Mead & White
1997renovation Grieves, Worrall, Wright & O'Hatnick
Designer: Samuel D. Backus; William G. Preston; McKim, Mead & White
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Gothic revival (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: stone
Walls: stone
Roof: asphalt shingles
ca. 1882classrooms (plus lecture hall and meeting hall)
1955-present (2006)theater (contains two theaters; one traditional, Picard; one experimental, Wish, added in 1997; also holds campus wide meetings)

When it was dedicated in 1882 as a monument to civil war veterans, Memorial Hall contained two classrooms and a large lecture hall on the first floor. The second floor was a large meeting hall that could hold the entire College. The visual identification with the Upjohn Chapel and the symbolic attributes of stone were two important reasons for the use of granite as a building material. The pointed Gothic door and windows echoed Upjohn's First Parish Church only sixty yards away. The Mansard or double-pitched hipped roof sits uneasily on the Gothic details below. Perhaps that roof form was an inexpensive way to get a full third story. The entranceway, with the projecting towerlike area reaching up into the roofline, appears to be derived from Italianate villas of the sort shown in Andrew Jackson Downing's The Architecture of Country Houses, but for Downing's round-arched opening and flat tower roof, pointed forms were substituted. The entranceway was one of the handsome features of the building. As the trees around it grew and Memorial gained its share of ivy, it had, for a while, the romantic air of collegiate gothic.

Memorial Hall was renovated, preserved, and expanded in 1997, based on a design by the firm of Grieves, Worrall, Wright & O'Hatnick, Inc. of Baltimore. This project also included an expansion, the experimental Wish Theater. The Maryland Society of the AIA recognized this design with a Merit Award for Architectural Excellence in September 2001. Before this, Pickard Theater was added in 1955, designed by McKim, Mead & White.


Anderson, Patricia McGraw. The Architecture of Bowdoin College. Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 1988.

Hatch, Louis Clinton. The History of Bowdoin College. Portland, ME: Loring, Short & Harmon, 1927.

Shettleworth, Earle G., Jr., and Frank A. Beard. Federal Street Historic District [including Bowdoin College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1976.


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Last update: November 2006