BAR HARBOR — When Andrew Geel purchased 39 High St. last summer, he had a vision of resurrecting the property to the former bed-and-breakfast he remembered.
Of the 25 B&Bs in Bar Harbor, the Geel family has, in one way or another, been involved with the renovation, investment and ownership of 10 of them.
It started in 1975 when Geel’s contractor grandfather, Alonzo, purchased and converted a summer home, turning it into what is now known as Thornhedge Inn at neighboring 47 Mount Desert St.
“Back then, there were hotels and inns, but nobody had really taken an old mansion and turned it into a bed-and-breakfast, so we were sort of early,” said Geel.
At that time, Geel lived with his parents, David and Anne, in Cherryfield. His grandfather convinced them to move to Mount Desert Island and buy a home in need of repairs. That home, called the “car station,” on 20 Roberts Avenue, was the first of several that Geel’s father and grandfather converted into a B&B.
“They would convert them, then they would sell one to buy a bigger one,” Geel said, adding that his father did that for many years.
After his grandfather died and his parents divorced, Geel’s mother took ownership of Cleftstone Manor, Elmhurst Inn and Anne’s White Columns Inn with her new husband, Robert Bahr, while his grandmother, Elinor, kept Thornhedge Inn.
Throughout the years, Geel spent a lot of time at his grandmother’s inn, where his family grew fond of the next-door neighbors, Barbara Moulton and her family, who ran what was known as Stratford House Inn in the 1990s.
“They ran it for a few years, and then decided they just liked it better private, so took it back to a private home again,” said Geel, who had admired the property since he was a kid.
After Geel took over the management of Thornhedge Inn, he continued to maintain his relationship with the Moultons, who eventually decided to sell Geel their house in November 2021.
Geel began renovating the building with his father, who passed away this spring. “My father helped me with this, so it was really cool to spend that quality time with him,” Geel said.
The personal relationships formed with local contractors over the years helped speed up the renovation process. According to Geel, there was a lot of excitement around the historic building’s restoration.
“I knew it was gonna be a pretty fair amount of work because it had been a private home for a long time,” he said.
Thornhedge Inn and Stratford House Inn were both built by Lewis Roberts in 1900. Thornhedge Inn was his summer cottage and Stratford House Inn was a guesthouse. Everything from behind the Mount Desert Street buildings to Cottage Street was owned by Roberts until 1920 when his son, Niles, divided the properties.
Now with a shortened name, Stratford also has an updated layout.
“It was originally listed as a 13-bedroom house, but I brought it down to seven units,” Geel said.
The B&B now has four rooms with attached bathrooms and the rest are suites that boast an additional living room. To pass inspection, the building needed a new sprinkler system and updated wiring.
“There was a lot of work that needed to be done, and once it’s done, you have to put it all back together, paint it and all of that stuff to get it back to normal,” Geel said, who added that he spent all winter doing that.
Along with the exterior, Geel also needed to focus on the interior, getting it furnished and decorated.
Geel is using the basement for employee housing, in addition to a second building on School Street.
In mid-July, Geel held a soft opening of sorts at Stratford, giving guests from Thornhedge Inn an opportunity to spend a night free of charge at Stratford as the way to get feedback.
“Once we acquire a guest, we typically never lose them because, unlike a hotel, it’s more of a detail-oriented kind of special type of thing,” Geel said.