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Westbrook Seminary

Portland, Maine



The digital archives of the University of New England (DUNE) contain numerous photos of students, faculty, and buildings of Westbrook Seminary.  1873-74 catalogue is available through Heirlooms Reunited.  The Portland Daily Press was among newspapers that covered school events.


In September 1830 the Kennebec Association of Universalists created Westbrook Seminary as a school for their youth that would educate boys and girls on an equal basis.  Classes opened on June 9, 1834.  The new school offered five courses of study:  A one-year common English course; a three-year higher English course which included business training; and four-year classical, scientific and college preparatory courses. In 1863 the Maine legislature gave Westbrook Seminary the power to grant the “degrees that are generally granted by female colleges,” so the school offered a Laureate of Arts or a Laureate of Science degree to females who had completed the four-year courses. 


"Class of 1890, Westbrook Seminary" (1890). University of New England, Westbrook College History Collection.

The Eromathian Literary Society met each Friday.  The 1881 commencement program shows that the eighteen graduates that year delivered eight orations—one in Latin—read eight essays—one in Greek, and one poem, and sang a class song written by one of the members.


By 1922 the Universalist Register notes that the school was experiencing serious financial difficulties.  The Register reports that in the fall of 1923 a first year of college work had been introduced, and that programs for male students were being phased out.  In the fall of 1925, Westbrook Seminary and Junior College opened as a female school.  By 1933 preparatory classes had been eliminated.  In 1970 it became a four-year college, and in 1973 the school readmitted males.  In 1996 Westbrook College merged with the University of New England.


Bricks and Mortar

Seminary Building—now Alumni Hall—was completed in time for classes by June of 1834.  Built at a cost of $7,000, it was a two-story, Federalist style, brick structure measuring 37’ by 70.’  The cupola came from the Old Portland Market House.  The building contained a general schoolroom, recitation rooms, a laboratory, and a cabinet of minerals.  For a quarter century, this building served all school functions.  Goddard Hall, completed in 1858, filled the need for a school dormitory.  With a solid division from basement to attic and two doors, it housed both male and female students until 1869.  Hersey Hall, a 100’ x 50’ Italianate building, was then completed to house female students, along with the president’s office and an auditorium.    In 1867 the Gothic Revival Universalist Church—later called All Souls—was completed.  It also housed the Seminary library.  In 1900 the McArthur Gymnasium, containing a bowling alley and a running track, was added.   

These five buildings, along with Proctor Hall, built in 1932, were added to the National Register in 1977  as the Westbrook Seminary Historical District.  The district is now part of the Portland campus of the University of New England.  

Westbook campus_edited.jpg

Panoramic view of the Westbrook campus in 1905.  Buildings left to right are All Souls Church, Goddard Hall, Hersey Hall, Alumni Hall, and McArthur Gymnasium.  Image from the Library of Congress.


            School colors: Crimson and Gray

             Team name: The Sem, Sems, Crimson and Grey


On November 25, 1889 the Daily Press reported that Westbrook Seminary team had defeated Portland High School 14-0 in “the good Rugby game of football.”   The seminary then played football regularly through 1924.  For the most part opponents were local high schools, institutes, academies, and seminaries.  These opponents included Hebron Academy, Coburn Classical Academy, Edward Little High School, and Nichols Latin School.  But each year the team stepped out against area athletic clubs such as Boston and Cape Elizabeth Railroad.  They also frequently played against freshman or reserve teams from Bates, Bowdoin or Colby College,  Since eligibility requirements were largely nonexistent, seminary teams were enhanced by offering free tuition to good players from other schools.  


Seminary baseball teams were very strong.  Three seminary players went on to major league careers.  Pitcher Frank Dupee started  one game for the White Stockings in 1901; Shortstop Bobby Murray played ten games for the Senators in 1923; First baseman Del Bissonette played ten seasons for the Dodgers.


Westbrook Seminary fielded both men’s and women’s basketball teams, leading to the building of McArthur Gymnasium.  The men’s team played in a state league that included four-year colleges.  The seminary track team won the Maine state meet in 1924.

Del Bissonette_edited.jpg
Frank Dupee_edited.jpg
Bobby Murray_edited.jpg

     Left: Flickr image of Del Bissonette (Baseball Birthdays); Center: Newspaper image of 

     Frank  Dupee in Westbrook uniform (Daily News);  Right: National Photo image of Bobby

     Murray (Library of Congress)

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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