Augusto Rosa of A4 Architects opens the door of the library at La Rochelle Friday at the preview party for the Bar Harbor Designer Showhouse at La Rochelle on West Street. Dubbed the "George Dorr Library," the room is filled with plants, books and artifacts reminiscent of Dorr's love of the natural world. ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

Design, history meet at Showhouse at La Rochelle

BAR HARBOR — Months of work were unveiled Friday when the organizers and designers of the Bar Harbor Designer Showhouse opened the doors of the historic West Street estate known as La Rochelle for a preview party.

This is the third project of the Showhouse brand, founded by Kim Swan to showcase Maine designers and raise funds for local nonprofits. Designers donate their work and the house is open for public tours, proceeds from which support the nonprofit.

“Designers were asked to create rooms reflecting their personal style with today’s design in mind, while giving a subtle nod to the history of Bar Harbor,” Swan said. “It is a thrill to watch them bring to life the first floor of this spectacular structure, celebrating the fine architectural detail” of the 1902 Georgian Revival “summer cottage.”

Members of the Bar Harbor Historical Society’s Board of Directors gather outside La Rochelle to celebrate the opening of the Showhouse, which will be open for tours through October and serve as a fundraiser for the society. From left, Kay Theede, Steve Raab, Richard Cough, Janie Whitney, Earl Brechlin, Tom Testa and Sherdwood Carr. ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

In this case the beneficiary is also the new owner of the property, the Bar Harbor Historical Society.

The living room, designed by Brett Johnson of Maine Street Design, includes lights on the mantle with small lampshades that each look like a Campbell’s Soup can. Ethel Colket, who owned La Rochelle in the 1940s with her husband Tristram, was the daughter of Campbell’s Soup co-founder John Thompson Dorrance.

The room also features a flower press from the historical society’s collection, a painting of the first Bluenose ferry, the one that ran the Bar Harbor – Nova Scotia route in the 1950s, and a small shipping crate addressed to George Bowdoin, the original owner of the estate. These appear alongside a very modern rope sculpture by Susan Beallor-Snyder and an antique leather Monopoly board.

The historical society plans to create a permanent museum at La Rochelle.

“In the interim,” said Dick Cough, board vice president, “the Bar Harbor Designer Showhouse is the perfect fit for La Rochelle, providing an opportunity for travelers and locals to see this beautiful home, experience the artistry of the interior designers involved, and look forward to seeing the Museum’s collection throughout.”

The Maine Seacoast Mission, which formerly owned the estate, has leased back the second floor and will keep its Mount Desert Island offices there until a new headquarters building, now under construction in Northeast Harbor, is complete.

The Showhouse opened to the public Saturday and will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Oct. 20. Tickets are $20.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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