Closed Magdalen College in Warner, with 129 acres, is for sale

A statue of Mary outside the Our Lady of Queen of Apostles Chapel on the campus of   Magdalen College in Warner on Wednesday, April 24, 2024.

A statue of Mary outside the Our Lady of Queen of Apostles Chapel on the campus of Magdalen College in Warner on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER

A statue of Mary outside the Our Lady of Queen of Apostles Chapel on the campus of   Magdalen College in Warner in April, just ahead of its official closing.

A statue of Mary outside the Our Lady of Queen of Apostles Chapel on the campus of Magdalen College in Warner in April, just ahead of its official closing. GEOFF FORESTERMonitor staff

The former college campus in Warner includes 8 buildings and 129 acres.

The former college campus in Warner includes 8 buildings and 129 acres. Courtesy Magdalen College

Dr. Ryan Messmore, the fifth President of Magdalen College, reflects on the Warner school’s closing in April. The school shut down in May.

Dr. Ryan Messmore, the fifth President of Magdalen College, reflects on the Warner school’s closing in April. The school shut down in May. GEOFF FORESTERMonitor staff

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 06-27-2024 3:29 PM

Modified: 06-29-2024 3:59 PM


The former Magdalen College of Liberal Arts in Warner, which closed in May after 50 years as the state’s smallest college, is up for sale. The campus with eight buildings on 129 acres was put on the market this week for $5.5 million.

The sale, which comes as no surprise, raises a lot of possibilities. For example, the campus was mentioned at a recent meeting of the Warner Housing Advisory Committee as a possible location for senior housing since it includes a cafeteria, kitchen and activity area. The large parcel of land at the foot of Mount Kearsarge could prove particularly attractive to developers.

There is no set outcome for what happens when a rural college closes. The former Chester College in southeast New Hampshire shut in 2012 and is now a private boarding school; the owner of Daniel Webster College in Nashua, which closed in 2017, rents out several buildings to businesses; and Southern Vermont College, which closed in 2019, is going to become a hotel.

Magdalen College was founded in 1973 by three lay members of the Catholic church to impart core religious values and teach a rigorous liberal arts education. It operated in a former motel in Bedford until a wealthy donor allowed it to move to the Warner campus in 1991.

As reported by the Monitor, enrollment in Warner fluctuated between 53 and 90 even though there was room for 125 students, and the school struggled financially as well as with keeping state accreditation. Starting as the College of St. Mary Magdalen, it became Northeast Catholic College in the mid-2010s and then Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in 2018.

A huge dispute among the college Board of Trustees in 2020 caused its longtime president and 12 of 15 board members to resign and drove away some students. The school never really recovered and in November announced that it would close at the end of the academic year. Its final commencement was May 11; enrollment at the time was 65.

The property is owned by the Catholic Order of Foresters.

Small private colleges that lack a large endowment, making them heavily dependent on tuition income for year-to-year survival, are facing headwinds throughout the Northeast and Midwest. Declining numbers of graduating high school seniors is undermining their finances to the point that the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association says almost one university or college per week has announced that it will close or merge in the past year.

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The sale of the Magdalen College  property is handled by Concord Commercial Real Estate.