Historical Society halfway to La Rochelle purchase goal

BAR HARBOR — The Bar Harbor Historical Society has announced that it is halfway to its $5 million fundraising goal to purchase La Rochelle, the historic West Street estate currently owned by the Maine Seacoast Mission.

The two nonprofits signed a purchase and sale agreement in September. The Historical Society now has until the end of the year to secure funding in order to close on the sale, according to Earl Brechlin, a member of the organization’s board. A recent “substantial leadership gift from a member of the summer community” brought them to the halfway mark, board members said in a statement.

“Saving this beautiful example of Bar Harbor’s Gilded Age for future generations to tour and learn about Bar Harbor’s storied history is a dream held by many,” the statement said. “We are very optimistic that additional donors including summer residents will realize the value of the project to the greater island community and come forward.”

Brechlin called the property “an exhibit in and of itself.”

“Anytime you can show somebody that connection to Bar Harbor’s Gilded Age, rather than just tell them about it, it’s a much stronger connection,” he said. “The Mission has done a great job of making people feel welcome in that house. Certainly we would want to continue that. The whole point would be to share it.”

The Historical Society would use the building as its headquarters and museum. It was built in 1904 as a 14,000-square-foot summer “cottage.”

When the Mission put the property on the market in July 2017, the asking price was $6.3 million. The price was lowered to $4.5 million this past July, but the new price did not include the eastern, undeveloped third of the lot, which the Mission had said it was open to selling separately.

The building and land are assessed for tax purposes at $5.37 million.

Since Tristram and Ruth Colket donated it to the Mission in 1972, it has also been known as the Colket Center.

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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