The house was built in 1806 by Samuel Melcher III, Brunswick’s leading housewright, for Parker Cleaveland, a young scientist and mathematician who came from Harvard to teach at Bowdoin. Melcher had studied the high-style Federal period houses of prosperous Massachusetts seacoast towns and adopted their architecture for his local clientele. Cleaveland House is one of the best preserved examples of its period in Brunswick, and it was designated a National Historic Landmark in May 2000.
The main portion of the house was completed in 1806, at a cost of $2,840.71. Further work was done in 1807, increasing the price to about $3,200. Cleaveland and his family made the house one of the social and intellectual centers of midcoast Maine during the five decades of his professorship.
In 1860, two years after Cleaveland’s death, the house was bought from the College by Cleaveland’s daughter Martha Cleaveland Chandler, wife of Boston lawyer Peleg Chandler of the Class of 1834. The house remained in the Chandler family until 1951, when it was bought by Robert Miller, Bowdoin’s swimming coach and a part-time auctioneer, who converted it into apartments.
The exceptional state of preservation of the house and its gardens owes much to its next owners, Professor and Mrs. William Shipman, who purchased the house in 1960. A pioneer in the study of Maine’s architectural heritage, Professor Shipman gives a detailed account of the house in his book The Early Architecture of Bowdoin College and Brunswick, Maine.
Brunswick is 25 miles from Portland and 120 miles from Boston. To reach Brunswick from the south, take the Maine Turnpike to I-295 (Exit 52); then follow I-295 to the Bath-Brunswick exit (Exit 28, Route 1). From the north via the Maine Turnpike, take Exit 103, then I-295 to Brunswick Exit 28 (Route 1, North).
From Exit 28, follow signs for business district (Maine Street); turn right at the end of Pleasant Street onto Maine Street. The Bowdoin campus begins at Maine Street and Bath Road. Turn left onto Bath Road (First Parish Church is at the corner) and continue to the first set of lights. Turn left at the lights onto Federal Street. Parker Cleaveland House (75 Federal Street) is the fourth house on the right. Please drive down the driveway—there is parking at the end of the drive.