The cozy Gothic Revival farmhouse at 500 College Avenue in Old Town, just north of the University of Maine campus, was already more than half a century old when Edith Patch purchased it in 1913. Overlooking river, meadows, woods, fields, and gardens, the fifty-acre property included the home, a barn, and a small screen house on stone foundation near the bank of the Stillwater River. At one time, Lincoln Colcord, author of the “Maine Stein Song” had lived in the house.
Dr. Patch had arrived at the University of Maine in 1903 to establish an entomology department for the Maine Agricultural Experiment Station. After enduring a first, probationary year without salary to prove that a woman could do the job, Dr. Patch quickly demonstrated her worth, solidifying her position as one of the world’s leading experts on agricultural pests.
Now, in 1913, she found the perfect setting from which to embark on a parallel career creating stories, poems, and nature articles in her time away from the lab. This prolific output of environmental writings would endear her to millions of readers worldwide.
She named her home “Braeside,” because the sight of a “bluebell swinging above a cranny in a rocky ledge” there reminded her of the far-off crannies and colors of Scotland.
Following Dr. Patch’s death in 1954, Braeside continued in private ownership for a brief time, and then became the property of the University of Maine. It served first as a faculty residence and later as student housing, until it was slated to be burned in 1997 for fire-fighter training. Members of campus and community worked to save the home because of Dr. Patch’s historical and scientific importance. The Friends of Dr. Edith Marion Patch worked with University of Maine administration to develop nomination documents, and the home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Plans have been in formulation for the past decade to develop an environmental research and education center at Braeside, reflecting and continuing the work that Dr. Patch began. The Friends of Dr. Edith Marion Patch are now partnering with faculty in the School of Biology and Ecology and the School of Forest Resources to bring this longstanding vision to practical reality very soon. Preliminary designs for outdoor learning and migratory bird study areas are now being refined. Inside the house, there will be a museum, resource collection for teachers, seminar and meeting rooms, and offices for research and education. The barn will become a classroom and bird-banding lab.
Braeside has had a fascinating past, and will soon step into a vibrant future!