ACADIA NAT’L PARK — The nonprofit Islesford Boatworks will lease the historic Blue Duck building on the Islesford waterfront from the National Park Service and use it for its summertime wooden boatbuilding programs.
The lease is for 10 years. The size of the annual lease payments has not been finalized, but Rebecca Cole-Will, Acadia’s chief of resource management, indicated the amount would be modest.
Built around 1850 as a ships’ store, the Blue Duck is on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been part of Acadia since 1948 but has been used primarily for storage.
The National Park Service announced last August that it was accepting proposals from prospective lessees who wanted to use the building in a way that would “ensure that the historic and architectural values of the property are preserved.”
Cole-Will told the Acadia Advisory Commission on Monday that Islesford Boatworks is a perfect fit.
“This is an opportunity for the park to partner with the community to re-use this building in a way that’s historically appropriate,” she said. “It’s kind of a new way of managing historic buildings, particularly ones that we don’t have a lot of use for anymore.”
Since Islesford Boatworks was founded by members of the Ravenhill family in 2006, it has been housed in the family’s barn on Islesford’s Sand Beach Road. It has offered three levels of boatbuilding programs for ages 7-18, with adult volunteers encouraged to participate. In addition, groups of up to 30 people can spend a day of hands-on boatbuilding.
“We’ve hit our capacity at the Ravenhill barn,” said Tony Archino, executive director of Islesford Boatworks. “So, having the Blue Duck space will allow us to keep our numbers where they need to be within each program and also allow us to add programs to reach people we couldn’t reach before.”
For example, he said, Islesford Boatworks plans to offer programs for children under 7 starting this summer.
Archino said the organization’s power machinery, such as table saws, will remain in the Ravenhill’s barn.
“That leaves the Blue Duck free to be just for building the wooden boats in an almost completely traditional hand-tool environment,” he said.
Islesford Boatworks will pay the cost of tearing down interior first-floor walls to convert what are now several small rooms into one large, open shop space.
“We’re hoping to make the Blue Duck a waterfront community hub,” Archino said. “One of the things we would like to do is start an island speakers program, where we get people on the island who have knowledge of the working waterfront to do demonstrations and talk to the community.”
Islesford summer resident William Otis Sawtelle, a Haverford College physics professor, bought the waterfront building around 1918 and named it the “Blue Duck” after finding a large collection of duck decoys stored there. He painted the decoys blue and displayed them around the property.
Sawtelle founded the Islesford Historical Society and used the Blue Duck to exhibit historical items and memorabilia that people donated to the society. In 1927, the society built the Islesford Historical Museum on a lot behind the Blue Duck to house its growing collection. Acadia National Park owns both buildings.