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The History of the U of M at Presque Isle: A Narrative

When Governor Cleaves' special commission was researching the possible locations for a new normal school in the state of Maine in 1896, Presque Isle was investigated; however, in 1897 the State Legislature voted that Presque Isle was not where they wanted the new normal school. Around the same time, in 1896, the St. John's Episcopal Secondary School for Boys, which was located in Presque Isle, closed its doors. In 1902, the town of Presque Isle bought the old St. John's School buildings along with five acres of land for $2,500.00. The town then offered the buildings and the land to the state for the establishment of a normal school. On March 20, 1903 the State Legislature passed a bill that established a new normal school in the town of Presque Isle. On August 18, 1903 the school was dedicated, and the name given to this school was the Aroostook State Normal School (ASNS).

On September 15, 1903, ASNS opened its doors. Seventeen students were admitted for that first semester to study in a two-year teaching program, and there were a total of three faculty members. Irving O. Bragg was the first principal, and Mr. Alonzo J.K. Knowlton and Miss Ardelle Tozier were assistant teachers. Two buildings existed on campus at this time. One was called Central Hall, which consisted of the classrooms where courses were taught. The other building served as the Principal's home and office. At this time all students commuted to school, as there was no available space for dormitory life.

On January 3, 1905 the Training School opened. The Training School is the equivalent of today's student teaching. Students in grades 1-6 occupied two rooms of Central Hall in order to allow ASNS students the opportunity to attain the experience of teaching children. Miss Florence M. Hale served as principal, and Miss Nellie W. Jordan served as assistant.

With the need for a dormitory at Aroostook State Normal School growing, Governor William S. Cobb signed a bill appropriating $20,000.00 for the construction of a dormitory. The town of Presque Isle did not feel that this amount was adequate to appropriately build and complete a dormitory such as they wanted, so the town of Presque Isle also gave $20,000.00 to help fund the construction of the new dormitory. The work on this building began in the spring of 1905 and continued through the summer and into the winter of that same year. School began late that fall in order to allow the building to be completed so that it was livable. Miss Mary E. Kelley, who took on the role of becoming matron to the dorm, and Miss Tracy, Miss Kelley's helper, came to the dormitory on December 4, 1905 in order to get the dorm ready for students to move in. On December 12, 1905 students moved into the new dormitory, which at this time was still incomplete on the inside. Walls were not painted, there were no window shades, and there were no doors on the rooms. The dormitory was named Normal Hall.

The spring of 1905 marked the first time a class had graduated from the Aroostook State Normal School. There were a total of 12 graduates.

ASNS saw a change of principals in 1907. Principal Irving O. Bragg retired, and the Board of Trustees appointed Mr. San Lorenzo Merriman as the new principal of Aroostook State Normal School. Also in that year, the school hired its first assistant principal, Mr. William D. Hall.

The year 1909 marked the beginning of the production of the Salmagundi, then the school newspaper. Since then, the Salmagundi evolved into the school yearbook. The students of ASNS chose the name "Salmagundi" for a very specific reason. Salmagundi is actually an "old Dutch Dish which consisted of a mixture of spices, chopped meat, pickled herring, oil, vinegar, pepper and onions." The word was reinterpreted into an abstract meaning to be understood as a mixture of a little bit of everything. With that in mind, the students decided to call their paper that would consist of a little bit of everything the "Salmagundi," and even to this day, Salmagundi seems an appropriate title for the yearbook of the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

In order to provide more training with youngsters, the Aroostook State Normal School offered its first summer session in 1910. This six-week term began on July 10, and allowed student teachers to increase their knowledge of and experience with the teaching profession, and to offer student teachers a proper Normal School training. There was more good news for the Training School in 1911. The town of Presque Isle and ASNS drew up a contract between them to allow ASNS to use the old Presque Isle High School building as a training facility. This provided more space for training.

The class of 1913 had a say in the future of the Aroostook State Normal School. Not only did the class of 1913 choose the school motto "Education for Service," but the same class also began a tradition that continued on for a number of years. The class of 1913 decided to leave its mark on campus for a long time to come by planting a tree. They dedicated the tree to Miss Ardelle Tozier. After this first tree planting and dedication, each graduating class, for some time, would dedicate a tree to someone and plant it on Arbor Day.

Aroostook State Normal School closed its doors for a short period in 1918 when the influenza epidemic ran rampant through the town of Presque Isle. At this time, the dorms were emptied, classes were suspended, and parts of the old school building were used as a hospital where many of the townspeople were cared for.

Although the Aroostook State Normal School had grown intellectually since its conception, its physical self had not grown in size since the addition of Normal Hall in 1905. The faculty, staff, and students recognized the need for a new facility, but getting the government to realize their need was not an easy task. In 1919 Governor Milliken stated that ASNS could have a new building if it could guarantee a large growth in student enrollment over the next five years, but his council did not want to make that promise to ASNS. It was not until State Senators and Representatives visited the Aroostook State Normal School that they saw the definite need for a new building. When the Senators and Representatives visited ASNS in 1919, they saw that space was limited, and that heating conditions were extremely poor, as they had to keep their coats on during their visit. As a result of that visit, the state government appropriated funds toward the construction of a new building. When that building was completed in 1921, it was commonly called the Administration Building, but since then it has been renamed Preble Hall.

June 3, 1921 marked the school's very first form of public entertainment when the senior class presented its class play, "A Girl in a Thousand," under the direction of Miss Alice Coffin. This began a long tradition of classes presenting senior plays and of theater in general for the Aroostook State Normal School.

Also in 1921, Principal Merriman built a home off-campus for himself, and what was the principal's home and part of Central Hall were converted into 16 dormitory rooms for women. The building that was the principal's home came to be known as South Hall, as it was the southern-most building on campus at that time.

In the winter of 1921-1922, ASNS began its annual Winter Carnival. The Winter Carnival allowed students to compete with each other in a number of events. For that first year, the events included a flag relay race, a snowshoe dash, and basketball games between the Seniors and Juniors.

The original St. John's School building met its demise in 1923 when the building burned down. The following year, in 1924, a new building was erected in place of the original buildings, and this was named South Hall, as it is still called today.

During the next years, Aroostook State Normal School grew. The number of students increased, and the amount, type and popularity of student clubs, organizations, and athletics grew enormously as well.

In 1940, Principal Merriman retired from his long history of dedication and service to ASNS. Dr. Clifford O.T. Wieden replaced him as principal.

The year 1943 brought an immense change for the faculty and students of Aroostook State Normal School. With World War II in full swing, the federal government decided to close down ASNS so that the Federal Public Housing Authority could use it as a home for women workers at the airbase. ASNS did not provide enough space for housing purposes, so two barracks were built behind the Administration Building (Preble Hall). For the duration of the war Principal Wieden, faculty, and students of ASNS went to Washington State Normal School in Machias to continue their education. On September 23, 1946, after three years of being closed down as a school, Aroostook State Normal School reopened its doors to 52 students as ASNS.

In 1947 there was a very significant status change for ASNS, when the state legislature gave ASNS Junior College status. Soon after, in 1950, Aroostook State Normal School upgraded its curriculum to a four year program, then in 1952 the institution was renamed the Aroostook State Teacher's College (ASTC) in order to reflect the upgrade in curriculum. In that same year, Mr. Jan Kok was hired as a music instructor. He remained at the school for a long time and greatly impacted the music program and the appreciation that students at ASTC had for music.

A change in athletics came in 1954 when ASTC became a charter member of the Northeast College Conference, giving them more teams to compete against in intercollegiate athletics. Also in 1954, ASTC became the first state-sponsored school of practical nursing. Training for this program was held in the barracks that remained on campus from war-time. The nursing program moved to the Northern Maine Vocational Technical Institute (now called Northern Maine Technical College - NMTC) in 1962.

1958 marked the beginning of the Health, Physical Education, and Recreation programs at the Aroostook State Teacher's College. Since that time, the Physical Education program has been recognized as an excellent program, and it continues to be a strong program to this day.

A new multi-purpose building was added to the physical body of Aroostook State Teacher's College. In April of 1960, this new building was completed and dedicated as Wieden Hall, in honor of Dr. Clifford O.T. Wieden. This new building was the first new building (not including the barracks from the war) since 1924 when South Hall was rebuilt after it burned to the ground.

In 1962 the Aroostook State Teacher's College bought the Ben Marks Farm for $60,000.00. This purchase added 123 acres of land to the size of the campus, giving the campus a total size of 150 acres. This purchase was important in the years to follow, as it was in the late sixties that many more buildings were added to the Aroostook State Teacher's College. Without the purchase of the Ben Marks Farm, this much-needed expansion of the physical body of ASTC would not have been possible.

In 1963, a new dormitory, Emerson Hall, was added to campus. Emerson Hall was originally built with the purpose of being a woman's dormitory. As a result, it was named after Miss Leah Crabtree Emerson, the first female member of the State Board of Education.

With the expansion of educational programs at ASTC, the focus of study was no longer only on teaching; therefore, in 1965, the school was once again renamed. This time, there was only a small change. The new name of the institution became Aroostook State College (ASC).

It soon became evident that there was a need for more residence halls, so in 1967 a new men's dormitory, Merriman Hall, was completed. This dormitory was named after the second principal of the Aroostook State Normal School, Mr. San Lorenzo Merriman, in honor of his dedication and contributions to this school.

Also in 1967, Kelley Commons, the dining hall was completed. This building was named in honor of Miss Mary E. Kelley, the first matron of the school.

This school first became a part of the University of Maine System in 1968. As a result of this affiliation, the school was renamed again, this time to the Aroostook State College of the University of Maine (ASC of UM).

Another new facility was completed in 1968. This time, the purpose of the building was as a classroom building, and the new facility was dedicated as Folsom Hall, in honor of Miss Ida Folsom, a long-time science teacher at this school. She taught at Aroostook State Normal School from 1912-1935, and had a real impact on the school's science program.

Also in 1968, the Aroostook State College of the University of Maine joined the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

1969 proved to be another important year for the addition of buildings to the campus, as two more were added that year. Park and Pullen Halls were finished and dedicated in 1969. Park Hall, a dormitory, was built where the Reverend George M. Park's home stood. Park Hall was named in his honor for his efforts in making Presque Isle the site of the new normal school in 1903. Mr. Park played a significant role in the establishment of this institution. Pullen Hall was named in honor of Miss Marguerite Pullen, a long-time teacher.

Also in 1969, President Clifford O.T. Wieden retired. His position as president was filled by Dr. Stanley F. Salwak.

The year 1970 marks the latest change of name that this institution has gone through. In 1970, the ASC of UM was renamed once again, this time to its current name, the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI). Also in 1970, the Norton Museum was donated and moved to the UMPI campus.

In 1971, Normal Hall was renovated. The change was a significant one, with the rooms being changed from residential dormitories to faculty offices.

There were curriculum changes in 1973 with the addition of the Bachelor of Arts degree, as well as program study in the subject areas of Criminal Justice and Soviet Studies.

In 1974 the Smith House was purchased.

The year 1975 marked the completion of the Library, an addition to UMPI that was greatly needed.

President Salwak retired in 1980, and was replaced by President Constance H. Carlson, the first female president of any university under the University of Maine System.

1981 marked the beginning of the school newspaper, the University Times. In 1982, the Special Collections Room was added to the basement of the Library.

President Carlson retired in 1986, and was soon replaced by Dr. James R. Roach.

President Roach felt that it was important that the President's House be on campus, so in 1987 the Smith House, which then served as a Student Services facility was transformed into the President's House, where Mr. and Mrs. Roach lived the remainder of his time as president of the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

President Roach advocated for the addition of another building to the campus. This new facility was to be a student center with offices for student organizations, and meeting spaces to fulfill the needs of campus groups wishing to hold meetings, workshops, banquets, and other social gatherings. The work on this building was completed in 1992, the same year that President Roach retired from UMPI. In 1993, our current leader, Dr. W. Michael Easton took over the position of president of the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

Since that time, many of the school's buildings have undergone some major renovations. Many offices in Preble Hall have been renovated. The first floor of Normal Hall has been renovated to include 3 additional classrooms. In addition, each of the dormitories have been renovated to include carpets in each room and in the hallways, making the atmosphere more friendly and comfortable. In 1996, the University of Maine at Presque Isle bought a building called the Skyway Suites. The Skyway Suites are located about 3 miles from the school, by the Northern Maine Technical College. Also in 1996, the school became home to the Northern Maine Museum of Science, located in the hallways of Folsom Hall, the science building.


Page created by: Lynda C. Stawasz
Page Updated: May 1, 1998
Library Web Pages Maintained by:
Eric Brissette