April 3, 2017

Bar Harbor's historic Ullikana inn sells for $2.15 million

COURTESY / Swan Agency Sotheby's International Realty
COURTESY / Swan Agency Sotheby's International Realty
A landmark Bar Harbor bed-and-breakfast, Ullikana in the Field, sold for $2.15 million. The deal is one of several recent lodging transactions.

BAR HARBOR—The sale of a landmark Bar Harbor inn, Ullikana in the Field, is part of a surge in the area's lodging transactions.

Eddie and Judy Hemmingsen purchased the property for $2.15 million from the inn's long-time owners and keepers, Roy Kasindorf and Helen Harton, in a deal that closed March 7. Kimberly Swan of The Swan Agency Sotheby's International Realty brokered the sale.

The 5,750-square-foot inn, which is on half an acre on the outskirts of downtown Bar Harbor, comprises 10 guest rooms, all with private baths and some with private terraces with water views. The building was constructed in the English Tudor style. The cottage is just above Bar Harbor's popular Shore Path skirting the harbor.

It was built by Boston shipping magnate Alpheus Hardy, who is credited with building Bar Harbor's first summer "cottage," named Birch Point, in 1868. He built Ullikana in 1885 and it is one of the few early cottages still standing, according to the inn's website and the Bar Harbor Historical Society website.

"Nobody knows where the name came from," Kasindorf said in a press release. "We have done lots of research and heard lots of opinions, but there is no definite knowledge of why Hardy named the property Ullikana."

However, an article by Ilil Arbel on a website called Encyclopedia Mythica says Hardy discovered the Hawaiian tale of Ullikana during his travels as a China trader. The name refers to a mare named Ullikana, who led a prayer to the gods to send a guardian spirit to lead her dying friend safely to the next world. The ghost of her friend praised Ullikana for her kindness and wisdom.

Hardy, who died in 1887, apparently never got to live in Ullikana, Kasindorf said, although his wife Susan Hardy occupied it for a number of years. The history is then murky until 1947, when new buyers came along right after the Great Fire of 1947, which destroyed much of Bar Harbor, but left Ullikana intact.

Modern history as a B&B and inn

Kasindorf and Harton began leasing the inn in 1991, then purchased it in 1992.

"We bought it as bed-and-breakfast, but it needed maybe a little more care, and every room had to be fixed up," Kasindorf said.

He said they didn't want to make any substantial alterations; nevertheless, projects inevitably came up every year, mainly standard maintenance and repairs, with the most significant change being the rebuilding of a back wing.

As the couple approached their 70s, after 26 years of hosting thousands of guests, they decided it was time "to see what else there is to do that wasn't tied to the inn," he said. "It was a tough decision to make. We have loved everything about the business and the property."

The buyers, Eddie and Judy Hemmingsen, were Bar Harbor lodging fixtures for many years, owning and operating, from 1979 to 2000, the Bluenose Inn, which burned down in 1994 and was then rebuilt. In 2000, they sold the hotel and retired to Belfast, where they bought a Main Street building and transformed it into the Belfast Bay Inn — a three-year renovation of a pair of mid-1800s row houses, according to that inn's website.

But Bar Harbor called.

"We have been looking for the perfect property and time and time again we have been attracted to The Ullikana. The location, building, grounds, ocean views and the business that Roy and Helene have built was just too enticing to pass up," the new owners said in a news release.

According to the release, the Hemmingsens plan to create several suites at the property, then open for the 2017 season on Memorial Day Weekend.

A surge of inns changing hands

Swan, who has deep experience in inn transactions throughout the state dating back to 1986, said such transactions averaged perhaps four per year for many years, then slowed during the recession.

"Now there are a lot of inns for sale in Bar Harbor," Swan said. "In my memory, we've never had so many inns for sale as there are now. Some have been on the market a few years, and some just came on the market."

Why the sudden surge?

"Nobody knows," she said.

She cited the Graycote Inn, in Bar Harbor, as an example. The Victorian-style B&B, built in 1881 as a private residence, was the first inn she brokered, back in 1986, and now it's under contract to be sold again.

"Those owners have been here 20 years," she said. "In a lot of cases, 10 or more years ago, the average lifespan for an innkeeper was five to 10 years. It was people who had retired; they wanted to do something. Now, especially in Bar Harbor, that lifespan has really extended."

She said she find another interesting thing about Bar Harbor is that, in recent years, many new owners are local residents, whereas elsewhere in Maine many buyers are coming from out-of-state.

"I think the locals have seen it's such a great business, a great industry," Swan said.


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