Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Curtis Pool Building

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Institution Name: Bowdoin College
Original/Historic Place Name: Curtis Pool Building
Location on Campus: 3200 College Station
Date(s) of Construction:
1927-1928original construction McKim, Mead & White
Designer: McKim, Mead & White
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: concrete
Walls: brick
Roof: metal
ca. 1928gymnasium (houses the swimming pool)
ca. 2004-present (2006)administration (houses some adminstrative offices)

Curtis Pool is a 1928 McKim, Mead & White building designed to house a swimming pool, although it is no longer used in this capacity. A small portion is now used as office space. Curtis Pool is distinctive architecturally as an early 20th-century collegiate athletic facility. The interior is remarkably intact and is an excellent example of a 1920s athletic facility, with stunning tile walls and a bowed ceiling. McKim, Mead and White designed a graceful rather than monumental entranceway. In the projecting pavilion the door is flanked by white Doric columns supporting an entablature; above is a semicircular fanlight. The scale of the other openings is as pseudo-domestic as the use of a fanlight. The two-story elevation and hipped roof also disguise the bulk and the intention of the building. The joining to its predecessor building, the Sargent Gymnasium, is handled with tact.

Bowdoin has commissioned a design for this building to transform it into a music recital hall in order to meet the needs of the Music Department, pending successful fundraising. The adaptive re-use plan calls for creating a performance space and the preservation of the interior and exterior of the building. The recital hall envisioned will provide spaces for student and faculty performances and will provide a space for public concerts. Additionally, the College is considering the removal of north and south campus drives to restore it as a greenway or landscaped area bordering the brick dormitories in the open space in front of Curtis, and between the Smith Union and Moulton Union. This area now contains parking and roadway areas that intrude on the center of campus.


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

McKim, Mead & White. Recent Buildings Designed for Educational Institutions. Philadelphia: Beck Engraving, 1936.

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