BAR HARBOR — The Bar Harbor Historical Society has announced plans to sell the former convent building at 33 Ledgelawn Ave. that has served as its headquarters since 1997. Proceeds from the sale of the three-story Tudor revival building will support the Historical Society’s acquisition of La Rochelle, the current headquarters of the Maine Seacoast Mission, for use as a living history museum headquarters and archive.
“This is just a natural next step as we move forward with acquiring La Rochelle and converting it to become the pre-eminent repository for the history of Bar Harbor and much of Mount Desert Island,” said Historical Society spokesman Earl Brechlin.
The group is about half way to completing its fundraising for the project, he said. A fundraising video was released this week.
The Historical Society purchased the building on Ledgelawn in 1997 for $260,000. Its current assessed value is $485,200.
“Before the convent, the society was located in a single room in the Jesup Library basement,” Brechlin said. “Thanks in no small part to the good efforts of curator Deborah Dyer, we paid off the mortgage in just eight years. So many items and artifacts have poured in since that we really need bigger quarters.”
The former St. Edwards Convent was built in 1916 by Col. Edward Morrell and Mrs. Louise Drexel Morrell and was given to the nearby Holy Redeemer Church.
Col. Morrell died before the dedication in 1918, but his and Louise’s likenesses are reproduced in stained glass windows in the chapel on the second floor dedicated to him.
Louise Morrell was a sister to Saint Katherine Drexel, who was canonized in Rome on Oct. 1, 2000. At that time, she was only the second American citizen to be so honored.
When St. Katherine Drexel would visit her sister at her Bar Harbor home “Thirlstane,” she would stay at St. Edward’s Convent. St. Katherine, a wealthy Philadelphia socialite, later founded the Sisters of The Blessed Sacrament. She used her inheritance to found schools and a university.
The convent is included on the National Register of Historic Places. After being sold by the church, and before being acquired by the Historical Society, it was used as a bed and breakfast. The first floor is used for museum displays and meeting spaces. The second floor houses a chapel, offices and additional storage.
Another property considered as a future home for a Historical Society headquarters and museum was 56 Cottage St., most recently home to the Nakorn Thai restaurant. The Society purchased that property in May 2018 and sold it in December after the La Rochelle deal was announced.