The Bar Harbor Law Offices building is being sold. The law firm that occupied the building until 2016 was known for real estate work dating back to the founding of Acadia National Park. ISLANDER PHOTO BY BECKY PRITCHARD

Historic law office building to be sold



BAR HARBOR — The selling of 109 Main Street, former office of the late Doug Chapman, marks the end of an era.

The office building is for sale and under contract, according to Kimberly Swan of The Swan Agency Sotheby’s International Realty, but terms of the sale have not been made public.

The asking price for the 1887 building is $1.3 million. The land and building together are assessed for tax purposes at $917,800.

The building housed the firm Fenton, Chapman, Wheatley and Kane, which, under a series of different names, had been in practice continuously since it was founded in 1884 by L B. Deasy.

Deasy was joined in 1905 by Albert Harry Lynam and the two young lawyers “played an extremely important role… not only in the island’s history, but in the formation of Acadia National Park,” said Deasy’s great-grandson and Bar Harbor resident Bill Horner.

109 Main Street, which eventually became the home of the law firm, had always been retail space on the first floor and office space on the second floor, Horner said. He remembers working in a shop on the first floor himself.

According to Nat Fenton, who was part of the law firm with his late father Bill Fenton, the firm moved in to 109 Main Street in 1969.

In 2009, some documents found in the basement of the law office were traced back to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who was a client of Lynam and Deasy. The documents helped shed light on how the park was founded.

“The attorneys were really partners in the process,” said Ron Epp, author of the George Dorr biography Creating Acadia National Park.

“The prevailing view has been that these well-born men from away came here, purchased land and then decided to engage in this conservation project they carried out on their own,” he said.

His research led him to a different conclusion. Dorr and John D. Rockefeller Jr. weren’t importing the ideas of conservation and public access, they were protecting long-held local traditions and working closely with community and business leaders here.

In 2009, Epp and Horner visited the archives of what at the time was Fenton, Chapman, Wheatley and Kane. Doug Chapman, at the time the senior partner, took Epp and Horner to the basement, where the firm’s archives were kept. “What caught our eye were 12 boxes labeled J.D.R. Jr.,” he said.

When they realized what they had found, they began working on how to make these documents available to other researchers. The firm and the Rockefeller family agreed to donate some of the collection to the Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor.

“In a continuance of that Rockefeller philanthropic spirit, the family thought these records are a product of the island and ought to remain there,” Epp said. “We’re very pleased these papers have made their way into a public archive in Maine.”

According to Jesup Library Director Ruth Eveland, the library owns the collection but doesn’t have satisfactory storage space yet, so they are temporarily being housed at Colby College.

The Jesup is undergoing an expansion project. “It is in our development plan to have a lovely space for them,” Eveland said, “not only for storage, but for access to the public.” Eventually the files will also be digitized, she said.

Meanwhile in the office building at 109 Main Street, Fenton moved his practice to Ellsworth in 2015 and senior partner Doug Chapman passed away in 2016. The historic law firm came to an end.

As the building changes hands, one era comes to an end while new history is made in the 131-year-old office building.

 

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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