University of Southern Maine at Gorham

Gorham, ME
United States
University of Southern Maine at Gorham

Landscape Information

Gorham Academy, chartered in 1803 as a private school, opened in 1806 in a Georgian-style building on a one-acre hilltop bordered by a stone retaining wall. In 1836 trustees founded the separate Maine Female Seminary in a three-story building opposite the Academy. The school failed in the 1870s, when public high schools became common in Maine. In 1878 the Trustees offered both buildings to the State for the new Gorham Normal School, established to educate teachers. The campus then expanded onto an adjacent five-acre hilltop, where the brick Gothic-style Corthell Hall opened in 1878. In 1894 the Seminary was destroyed by fire and Robie Hall dormitory was built near Corthell Hall. The ridge-top buildings looked over the village, as well as the distant rural landscape, in contrast to other campuses having an inward focus around a quadrangle. A curvilinear carriage drive led to each building entrance. Numerous shade trees were planted on the barren hilltop and along paths sloping to the streets below. Today this historic core includes a sweeping lawn planted with shade trees against a backdrop of multi-story brick architecture. Walking paths cross the slopes. A paved drive roughly follows the same location as the original, although this is no longer the university’s main entrance. The Gorham Campus Historic District includes 12 of the university’s 125 acres and seven buildings added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.