Maine Seacoast Mission President John Zavodny, left, congratulates Bar Harbor Historical Society President Sherwood Carr Tuesday after the closing on the society’s purchase of La Rochelle, the mission's former headquarters. PHOTO COURTESY OF BAR HARBOR HISTORICAL SOCIETY

La Rochelle sale complete

BAR HARBOR — The Bar Harbor Historical Society took ownership Tuesday of the West Street mansion that for decades has been the headquarters of the Maine Seacoast Mission. The society plans to open a museum in the historic building.

The property, an estate called La Rochelle, was donated to the mission in 1972 by Tristam and Ruth Colket. Built in 1902, the Georgian Revival-style mansion known as the Colket Center has 41 rooms with nearly 14,000 square feet of space. In addition to having its offices there, the mission has used it — and allowed other organizations to use it — for meetings, receptions and other special events.

“Although we had other plans for the future of our growing collection, when La Rochelle came on the market we felt the opportunity to preserve not just the town’s history, but also the incredible historic and community resource that building represents, could not be passed up,” said Earl Brechlin, a member of the historical society’s board of directors.

In a press release, the board thanked the many donors who have supported the acquisition, especially summer resident Karol Foss, who provided a “major leadership gift” of an undisclosed amount.

The Swan Agency Sotheby’s International Realty handled the sale.

The historical society continues to fundraise in order to “cover the purchase and our future plans,” Brechlin said. A fundraising video was released in March.

The mission announced plans to sell the building in 2017. Last summer, the asking price was dropped from $6.3 million to $4.5 million, not including the eastern, undeveloped third of the lot; the group planned to split that off and sell it separately. But the historical society’s purchase includes the whole 2.9-acre waterfront property and was reported to be for $4.75 million.

The mission will lease back the second floor of La Rochelle for the time being, according to President John Zavodny. The organization’s 12 staff members in administration, finance and development will continue to work on the building’s second floor.

The mission plans to move its MDI headquarters to a new building that is planned but has not yet been built in Northeast Harbor. It will be close to where the Sunbeam, the boat used for the organization’s island programs, is berthed.

The historical society announced in March that it would put its current museum building, a former convent on Ledgelawn Avenue, up for sale to support the acquisition of La Rochelle. The group purchased that building in 1997 for $260,000. Its current assessed value is $485,200. It has been used in the past as an inn, private residence and Buddhist place of worship, said Brechlin.

“The society is not planning to move its museum until 2020 at the earliest,” the press release said.

Another property considered for a future Historical Society headquarters and museum was 56 Cottage Street, most recently home to the Nakorn Thai restaurant. The society purchased that property in May 2018. The La Rochelle deal was announced in September and the society sold the Cottage Street property to Foss in December.

For more information, contact 288-0000 or [email protected] or message the Bar Harbor Historical Society on Facebook.

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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