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Coleman Hall

Coleman Hall
1958
McKIM, MEAD AND WHITE

Coleman Hall, circa 1958. Catalog no.: 1478.1.

Four years after the construction of Gibson Hall, the final neo-Georgian commission at Bowdoin was completed. Coleman Hall was given by Jane Coleman Pickard, who, with her husband Frederick William Pickard, class of 1894 and a member of the Governing Boards from 1923 until his death in 1952, had already given Pickard Field, Pickard Field House, Pickard Theater, and a chair in chemistry named for Mr. Pickard's father.1

Mrs. Pickard was acting in the spirit of Mrs. Gibson in giving substantially to Bowdoin after her husband's death. The need for a dormitory was well known, as it had been for each preceding one, but dormitories seem never to be built until the need is dramatic. Whereas the earliest dormitories were built for around $10,000, $450,000 was required to build, furnish, and landscape Coleman.

Although McKim, Mead and White again used red brick with white trim and a granite foundation, this building is less monumental and more graceful than, for instance, its neighbor Hyde Hall.

A number of factors account for Coleman's graceful proportions: the entranceways are placed on the long side (in this case the quadrangle side), punctuating the long rows of windows. The fenestration above the doors, which illuminates the stairways, extends two stories in an unbroken expanse of small panes. This area is further defined by a recessed panel. Just below the flat roof is a short brick parapet. Below this a strongly profiled cornice and a granite stringcourse mark off the attic story from the rest of the floors. On both Gibson and Coleman this device serves to further the illusion of delicacy so that the two buildings are comparable in their informal scale. This delicacy did not impress an editorial writer from a Portland newspaper, who commented on the published plans for Coleman Hall on September 21, 1957:

We are repelled by the excessive modernism of the planned Air Force Academy campus [Eero Saarinen architect], but are certain that somewhere between Bow-doin's squat cubes and the jazzy spires of Colorado Springs there is a middle ground on which the design of future Bowdoin could rest.2

Mrs. Pickard had placed in each entryway the inscription "that the boys who live in this house will have a happy memory of it all their lives is the wish of their friend, Jane Coleman Pickard."

Text From: Patricia McGraw Anderson's The Architecture of Bowdoin College (Brunswick, Maine: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 1988). ©Bowdoin College.

1. Mr. Pickard's grandfather, Samuel Pickard, had been an Overseer in the 1860s; his father, Charles Weston Pickard, class of 1857, was also an Overseer, and three uncles were graduates. A fourth uncle received an honorary degree the year of Frederick's graduation. The fourth gener ation was represented by their son, John Coleman Pickard '22, also a generous benefactor of the College, who was a member of the Governing Boards from 1952 until his death in 1970.

2. Portland Press Herald [Edgar Comee], "Bowdoin Deserves the Best in Architectural Planning," Sept. 21, 1957.

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