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Whittier Field and Hubbard Grandstand

Whittier Field
Hubbard Grandstand

Whittier Field and Hubbard Grandstand, 1948. Catalog no.: 2367.1

Hazardous football-playing conditions of the early 1890s are described in a brochure entitled The Proposed Athletic Field at Bowdoin College: "The football field on the delta is ten yards too short, and the pine trunks and roots, at the east end of the field, add an unnecessary element of danger to the game."1

Readers of the brochure were solicited to make donations for clearing, making a quarter-mile track and a 220-yard straightaway, preparing baseball and football areas, fencing, and building a grandstand with dressing rooms for players. Although the College owned most of the six acres, some had to be acquired from the Robert Bowker heirs. Because the field area was flat and sandy, it did not require elaborate work. The engineering was done by John Emerson Burbank, an 1896 graduate and a physics instructor at Bowdoin from 1896 to 1900. The contractor was William Muir, Jr., of Brunswick.

Although Bowdoin had been playing intercollegiate baseball for twenty years, the first intercollegiate football game, with Tufts, had taken place as recently as 1889; the first game with Colby was in 1892, and with the University of Maine in 1893. Across the country at this time, competitive sports had developed to the point where grandstands and stadiums were needed for the spectators. The Harvard Stadium, designed by McKim, Mead and White and at the time the world's largest reinforced concrete structure, went up between 1899 and 1903; the Yale Bowl followed in 1914.

When Bowdoin's new field was completed, the wooden grandstand was moved over from the Delta, and some time before 1902 the field was named for the director of athletics and later college physician, Frank Nathaniel Whittier, class of 1885. Dr. Whittier, who had married a daughter of the Skolfield family, lived in the Park Row double house now owned by the Pejepscot Historical Society.

In 1902 General Thomas H. Hubbard, class of 1857, announced his gift of a grandstand equipped with locker rooms and showers. Hubbard Hall was barely finished when Henry Vaughan, its architect, undertook this new project for General Hubbard, with C. L. Fellows and Company of Concord, New Hampshire, as contractors.

This is probably the only grandstand in Henry Vaughan's oeuvre. Here, instead of the Gothic ideas he used in Searles Science Building and Hubbard Hall, he turned to something more pastoral, related to large summer cottages and to Stevens's Shingle Style, although the grandstand is made of stone and brick. The similarity derives from the generous overhang of the deep, hipped roof, originally green slate, and from the informality of the fieldstone base (now mostly obscured by additional bleachers). The upper red brick area originally had twelve openings, now blocked in, which contributed to a festive airiness. Before seating was added in front and to the sides, and before the addition to the roof, the grandstand appeared taller.

At the dedication, in May 1904, General Hubbard began:

Today we give this structure to Bowdoin College and dedicate it to the use of athletes and the lovers of athletics. Let us at the same time dedicate it to the declaration, 'Fair play, and may the best man win.'2
These words are carved in the front of the grandstand in the granite plinth that rests on the fieldstone base.

To celebrate its twenty-fifth reunion, the Class of 1903 gave to the College the gateway to Whittier Field and the Hubbard Grandstand. President Sills had wanted a gateway here, according to the Johnson family letters exchanged during the planning of the W. E. Robinson Gateway.3 Felix Arnold Burton '07 had already designed one and given a watercolor rendering of it and one of another gate to the Museum of Art in 1915.4 Henry Johnson, the museum director, probably encouraged Burton, his young friend, hoping suitable donors would come forward.

The Class of 1903, however, retained Harry S. Coombs '01 of Lewiston. Coombs provided the class with a fine rendering of the proposed gate, which was used as the twenty-fifth reunion letterhead.5 This was an effective choice, for the class raised more than the cost of the gate. Red brick, cast stone, and ironwork are the ingredients in this largest and most elaborate of Bowdoin's gateways.

The entrance is a demi-ellipse, with the brick walls curving out from the two pairs of posts. Provision has been made for ticket sellers, and there are five entrances. The large size is well adapted to the crush of spectators entering and leaving a fall football game. The formality of the Georgian forms relates to the other gateways rather than to the grandstand within, but the design organizes the landscape of flat terrain and towering pine trees.

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.: Whittier Field, p. 3.

2. "The Dedication of the Hubbard Grandstand," Bowdoin College, June 22, 1904, pamphlet. Sp. Coll., Bldgs.: Hubbard Grandstand, pp. 3-5.

3. F. R. Johnson to H. J. Chase, Feb. 17, 1919, includes a statement that President Sills wants a gate to the athletic fields, but "Anne does not take to anything connected to athletics."

4. Report of the President, 1914-1915, "Gifts to the Museum," p. 48.

5. Sp. Coll., Class of 1903 folder. See also the Orient, April 18, 1928, p.i.

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