Bowdoin Quad Gets a New Memorial Flagpole (and Flag)

For 84 years, a tall, straight pole made of Douglas fir supported the flag that flew above the southwest corner of the Bowdoin Quad. Of course, wood doesn’t last forever and this summer, the College replaced the original Memorial Flagpole with a 72-foot fiberglass pole that will be easier to maintain and should last quite a bit longer. The new pole also supports a larger flag — according to the experts the previous flag-to-flagpole ratio was a bit off.

Consigli Construction, which specializes in historic renovations, took down the old pole piece by piece in July. The company had to resort to using a high-pressured water hose to extract the base of the lodged pole, which ran all the way to the bottom of the granite monument. On August 19, the company erected the new pole, reattached the gilded eagle, and raised the new flag.

History buffs will know that Bowdoin’s Memorial Flagpole was designed by famed architects McKim, Mead & White, the same firm that also designed the Walker Art Building, the Class of 1875 gate, Moulton Union, and the Curtis Pool. Less well-known is that the flagpole was supposed to be situated out in the middle of the Quad. A group of students didn’t like that idea, so one Saturday night in the spring of 1930, before the new pole could be erected, they decided to move the pole into the Bowdoin Chapel. President Sills was not amused, but in the end a compromise was struck and Bowdoin’s Memorial Flagpole found a permanent home between Gibson Hall and the Walker Art Building. Read more about the history of the Memorial Flagpole in this account by Patricia McGraw Anderson.

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