TRENTON — For years, the deteriorating structure on the perimeter of the Bar Harbor Airport and across from the access road to the Trenton Elementary School has had a flag announcing that it was open for business and a sign that read, “Breakfast Served.”
“That was a joke,” says Bill Labelle, who bought the property in 2015. “I don’t know how many people I saw stop to take pictures.”
The joke ended last spring when someone stole the sign and flag. In May, Labelle leveled the building to prepare the way for new construction.
Labelle’s primary occupation is septic tank design and layout, but he operates a side business, Digging Holes LLC.
“Buying properties is just something I mess around with,” says Labelle, who said he doesn’t intend to operate a business in the building.
“All I’m doing is putting up the shell,” he said. “Then I’ll sell it or lease it, and finish it to suit.”
Many remember the original building as home to The Bronze Lantern, a 48-seat restaurant owned and operated by Louis Jacque, who passed away in 2010. But the building had been used for several other purposes over the years. Built in the 1970s by Willis Paine, the structure was first home to a small ice cream shop and Rupp minibike store. On the adjacent property, Paine operated a go-cart track, Kartland, where Labelle worked during his high school summers.
Before he demolished the old structure, Labelle salvaged what he could from inside. People had already stolen the copper and anything else of value, he said. He was able to give away some things like plates, glasses and cutlery, but most of the restaurant equipment that was left behind was in poor condition.
“It was all rusty, nothing was worth keeping,” Labelle says. “But I did save a few collectibles.”
Manning Builders, the contractor on the project, has already erected the frame and finished the roofing. The main area of the new structure is 32 x 56 square feet with a 10 x 14 square foot section on the back for utilities and storage.
The original structure included an apartment, and Labelle had intended to add an apartment on the second floor. However, he ran into issues with FAA flight restrictions which limited how high he could make the building.
“I could have done a smaller apartment, but it wasn’t worth the effort,” Labelle said.
He intends to install a heating system, finish the rough plumbing, and install a restroom.