Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
Harpswell Laboratory, 1898-1922
The Harspwell Laboratory, located in South Harpswell, Maine, was established by Tufts in 1898 to offer research opportunities for both undergraduates and professional researchers interested in marine biology.
In 1898, Professor John Kingsley of the Tufts College Department of Biology decided to start a summer school for biology students on the grounds of his cottage in South Harpswell, Maine. Tufts agreed to sponsor the school, and in 1901 the college paid for the construction of a nine-room laboratory, on Kingsley's property but much closer to the shoreline than his cottage. In the summer of 1902, the Tufts College Summer School of Biology officially opened, offering classes for twenty dollars each. By 1906, however, the school was discontinued and the facility became entirely devoted to research. Researchers from various universities including Colby, Harvard, and Clark traveled to Maine to work at the Harpswell Laboratory.
In 1913, Tufts cut most of its formal ties with the laboratory and it was established as a scientific corporation under the laws of the State of Maine. This was probably because Professor Kingsley, after a dispute with trustee Austin Fletcher, had resigned his post at Tufts. For the next seven years, however, Tufts continued to support the laboratory, reserving a room for Tufts researchers annually. By 1920, its last year as a research laboratory, Harspwell had provided facilities for over ninety-two researchers, who in turn published a total of more than one hundred and ten papers.
The financial drain of World War I, however, proved too much for the laboratory. In 1920, after it became clear that there was no more room or funds for expansion on the Harpswell property, the laboratory and moved. "The Wild Gardens of Acadia" Corporation, of which Harpswell Laboratory was a member, offered the lab new facilities on Mt. Desert Island, Maine, in return for a name change. In 1922, Harpswell Laboratory changed its name to Mt. Desert Island Laboratory and moved to its new home. Tufts attempted to keep its connection with the lab, offering the laboratory trustees the deed to the Harpswell property in return for a permanent room in the new facility, but was denied. The laboratory trustees did not want to be permanently affiliated with any university, and returned the Harpswell deed to Tufts. In 1922, all ties between Tufts and the Harpswell Laboratory were severed.
Tufts eventually sold the Harpswell property. Novelist Edith Dorian purchased the Kingsley cabin, while the laboratory was purchased and renovated by Guy Coolidge. The Coolidge property burned to the ground in the early 1960's.