BAR HARBOR — A building on the Wayman Lane property where Nelson Rockefeller was born was razed last week.
Fernwalk, at 47 Wayman Lane, a cottage built in 1890 by J. Montgomery Sears, was designed by William Ralph Emerson, cousin of essayist/poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was once part of a larger estate called “The Briars,” now on a separate parcel, at 48 Wayman Lane. Both abut the Shore Path.
The property is currently owned by Strawberry Hill LLC, run by siblings Paul Coston and Jane Whitney of Bar Harbor. The corporation was founded by Coston and Whitney’s parents in the 1960s.
In 1908, Rockefeller, former vice president of the United States and governor of New York, was born at The Briars.
His parents, John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, vacationed at the home that year and again in 1909. The family stayed here because Abby Rockefeller’s obstetrician spent summers in Blue Hill.
Ned and Evelyn Walsh McLean, owners of the Hope Diamond, are among the former owners of the property. According to Whitney, they changed Fernwalk into a recreation building. The renovations they made to the house were not built to last, and damage to the foundation was a key part of the decision to tear down the house, she said.
“I really didn’t want to tear it down,” Whitney said. “I wanted to save it. People looked at me like I was crazy.”
“It’s my sanctuary down there,” Whitney said. “My father invested in it [for] leisure on the waterfront.”
Town records say that Thomas G. Cook purchased the property for $7,000 in 1949. Cook sold the property to Dessa Skinner in 1959 for $12,500.
In July 1987, Mary Bayne purchased the property. Three months later, on Sep. 9, 1987, she sold it to Strawberry Hill.
In 2016, the property’s valuation for tax purposes was $354,000. The 2.5 acres of land is valued at $294,000.