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Dayton Arena

Dayton Arena

Dayton Arena, circa 1956. Catalog no.: 1414.1.

The only building dedication at Bowdoin that was deliberately planned for cold weather was held on November 10, 1956, in the new arena. With the indoor temperature at about 45 °F, the remarks were brief and were followed by a figure skating demonstration by members of the Skating Club of Boston. After the demonstration, the warmly-clad audience was invited to try the ice.

An indoor skating arena had been on lists of college needs since 1928. Although an arena and an addition to the library were included in the Sesquicentennial Fund plans, neither project was undertaken as a result of the campaign. The students organized their own fund drive for a new arena, as they had done for Sargent Gymnasium, raising almost six thousand dollars.

With the impetus of the student fund drive, the remainder of the money was raised by the alumni, but not easily, only a few years after the close of the Sesquicentennial Fund. In one clever appeal brochure the alumni are reminded that they have not been solicited for an athletic facilty for over forty years: "Construction has begun BUT ... to complete the new skating rink, $100,000 must still come in!"1

In such a mood of fiscal constraint, it is not surprising to discover a structure of modest materials and conservative design. An early proposal made by the architecture firm of Alonzo Harriman and Associates of Auburn, done during the Sesquicentennial Fund, was more elaborate, particularly in its extensive fenestration, including a clerestory. The final design was made by Barr, Gleason, and Barr, engineers and contractors of New York City. The Creamery Package Manufacturing Company of Boston, a refrigeration firm, was their most important collaborator. There are also blueprint drawings in the Office of Physical Plant entitled "Proposed changes to Hockey Rink Design" by McKim, Mead and White, dated March 28, 1956. In the same drawer is a landscaping scheme for the entranceway prepared by Vincent Cerasi of McKim, Mead and White.

Fundamentally the three schemes are similar, for they are all based on the Quonset hut. An invention of World War II based on the longhouse of the Iroquois, the Quonset hut design can span large interior spaces without intermediate supports. In its purest form it also eliminates the juncture of roof and walls, as does its popular successor, the A frame. The design problem was apparent in the earlier athletic facilities: how to enclose vast interior space while maintaining an exterior that has some sensible visual relationship to its surroundings. With Sargent Gymnasium and Curtis Pool, the classical revival facades on the narrow ends work well, leaving the mass behind to be articulated by fenestration and trees.

The curves of the Quonset hut relate to few other kinds of buildings except airplane hangars. On the other hand, more fanciful solutions to the ice arena problem have had their share of detractors: the Ingalls rink in New Haven, designed by Eero Saarinen, was called "the whale." The rinks at Dartmouth and the University of Maine at Orono look like medieval encampments, with tent shapes of varying heights making up the roof.

The Bowdoin arena is not a true Quonset hut because there are side walls. The principal material is concrete block painted red, the entrance facade is finished in stained clapboards, and the trim that surrounds the projecting area is wood painted white.

A rededication of the arena took place on the ice on January 22, 1976, between the first and second periods of a game with Williams. The structure was named in honor of Daniel Lacy Dayton, Jr. '49, an enthusiastic spectator who frequently made the trip from New York to Brunswick during hockey season. Dayton, who died in 1974, had been president of the New York Bowdoin Club. In addition to giving scoreboards, a public address system, and lighting, he had established the Daniel L. Dayton, Jr., Fund for the arena.

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

1. Sp. Coll., Bldgs.: Dayton Arena.

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