Bowdoin College in Brunswick has purchased a late-18th century house from a family who has made disputed claims that author Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote portions of her acclaimed novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” there.

The sale, which closed Thursday, ends a lengthy legal battle between the college and the family of Arline Lay.

The terms of the sale were confidential.

“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Bowdoin College for the purchase of our property at 28 College Street,” the Lay family said in a prepared statement. “The result is both reasonable and fair to our family and we appreciate the college’s willingness to work with us to resolve the matter.”

Bowdoin officials did not comment on the sale.

The two-story colonial style home was built in the late 1700s and originally was located on Park Row. A previous owner, the author and historian Robert P.T. Coffin, bought the home in the early 1900s and moved it to 28 College St. in the middle of campus.

Arline Lay’s family, which has deep roots in Brunswick, eventually inherited the house and she and her husband lived there for many years.

In 2012, after her husband died, Lay decided to sell, a decision that set in motion a long and sometimes bitter fight between her family and the small liberal arts college. Arline Lay’s son, James Lay, who has been critical of the college in the past, said in April that Bowdoin casts a “very big shadow in the state of Maine.”

The dispute hinged on an agreement between the college and Lay dating back to 1996 when Bowdoin purchased the property next to the Lay’s house and persuaded the family to grant Bowdoin right of first refusal to buy the property at 125 percent of its appraised value.

The Lay family later claimed that agreement was not valid and tried to sell anyway.

In 2014, the 3,500-square-foot, 6-bedroom home was listed in 2014 by a Beverly Hills real estate company for $3 million – far above its appraised value. The listing claimed that the home had significant historic value because Stowe wrote parts of her anti-slavery novel there.

Stowe did in fact live in Brunswick at the time – her husband was a Bowdoin professor – and she did write “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” in the town. But college scholars and Maine’s leading historian, Earle Shettleworth Jr., said Stowe wrote her novel while residing at 63 Federal St. That property, located near the campus, is now known as the Harriet Beecher Stowe House and is owned by Bowdoin College.

The Lay family took the property off the market but then relisted in 2016 and eventually found a buyer – a woman in South Portland who offered $750,000.

Bowdoin filed a lawsuit to successfully block that sale.

This spring, Maine Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy ruled that the Lay family must honor the agreement with the college. She also outlined a process for determining a value for the property and the closing price was the result of successful negotiation between the Lays and the college.

According to Brunswick records, the property was assessed at $261,800 this year. There are no immediate plans for the property at 28 College St., the college said in a statement Thursday.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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