MDI Biological Laboratory
General News

First Step in Major Makeover for Bowen Hall

As one of the first building you see when arriving on the MDI Biological Laboratory campus, Bowen Hall is a central and visible part our history. Sitting contented and yellow on its rise, Bowen serves as a sentinel, watching over the lab and all that is happening in pursuit of good science.

Over the last 175 years, Bowen Hall has served numerous purposes. Originally built as a homestead for blacksmith Benjamin Emory and his family somewhere between 1833 and 1851, in the late 1920’s served as the Laboratory’s dining hall, a common space where like-minds could often be seen, heads together, collaborating over the latest discoveries in the laboratories. Later the building served as a women’s dorm.

2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first MDIBL scientists in Salisbury Cove, and it seems fitting that this year we are breathing new life into Bowen Hall and bringing it back to its rightful place in the center of community life as a modern, multi-use space. The Bowen Hall project is part of our larger growth plans, and the first step is underway – carefully raising the hall off its old foundation block, moving it aside and installing a new, stable foundation.

Although the exact age of Bowen Hall is unknown, estimates based on archival evidence and advice from historians and architects place construction of Bowen Hall between 1833 and 1851. It is possible that it could have been built as early as 1805, given that there is some evidence that its current location, up on a knoll at the entrance to MDI Biological Laboratory’s campus, is not its original location. Bowen Hall was given its current name in honor of the Laboratory’s significant benefactor Louise deKoven Bowen, a Chicago philanthropist and civic leader who summered on Mount Desert Island in the 1890s and early 1900s.

The history of the MDI Biological Laboratory and science on MDI comes together in a rich, wonderful and unique story that deserves to be told. We are grateful to our supporters who have supported this project – in particular the Salisbury Cove Research Fund (managed by the Maine Community Fund), who have provided an incredibly generous $500,000 to MDI Biological Laboratory to help us restore and preserve our campus and restore Bowen Hall as a vital part of MDIBL’s bright and vibrant future.

Bowen Hall being lifted off its foundation, Summer 2021.