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October 23, 2017

New owners plan to enhance historic Phippsburg inn's wedding and events business

Courtesy / Sarah Dunagan
Courtesy / Sarah Dunagan
Sarah Dunagan and Stuart Devan, the new owners of 1774 Waterfront Inn at 44 Parker Head Road in Phippsburg, plan to expand the wedding and event side of the inn business.
Courtesy / Sarah Dunagan
Sarah Dunagan and Stuart Devan are the new owners of the 1774 Waterfront Inn at 44 Parker Head Road in Phippsburg, an example of pre-Revolution Georgian-style architecture.

PHIPPSBURG — The new owners of 1774 Waterfront Inn at 44 Parker Head Road plan to leverage their extensive catering and food background to enhance the historic inn's events and wedding business.

Sarah Dunagan and Stuart Devan purchased the property from Jackie Hogg and John Atkinson for an undisclosed price, in a deal that closed Sept. 15. Dana Moos, a broker with The B&B Team, represented both parties. The property consists of 4.4 acres and a 7,900-square-foot building that was originally the main house and a barn, but was connected at some point by an ell.

According to the inn's website, the main house is an example of pre-Revolution Georgian-style architecture, featuring details like a heavy front door with a bulls-eye glass panel, grand staircase, original window shutters, window seats, wood floors, paneling, open fireplaces and a "witch's door" with Roman and Greek crosses to ward off evil spirits. It's listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the McCobb-Hill-Minott House and was constructed between 1773 and 1774 for local businessman James McCobb. Mark Langdon Hill, Maine's first U.S. congressman, lived there starting in 1782. In 1854, it was purchased by Charles Minott, who became a well-known Maine shipbuilder.

Adjoining the main house is the "Ship's Carpenters' Quarters," added in 1870 as lodging quarters for Minott's shipwrights. The inn, with eight bedrooms, has a sweeping lawn with a view of the Kennebec River.

Owners bring food-and-wine background to new venture

Dunagan and Devan moved to Phippsburg from New York, where they rented a tiny one-bedroom apartment in the East Village.

"My mom has a cabin here and we've been coming here about 17 years," Dunagan said. "So we already loved Phippsburg."

A professional chef with a previous background in environmental health, she cooked at restaurants in France and Spain. Her experience included working on the French island of Corsica, where she worked on a farm by day and cooked in a related restaurant by night. That was followed by jobs with several Michelin-starred chefs, in Provence, Madrid and Cataluna; the latter was also a farm with a restaurant and inn.

Most recently, she worked as a line cook at the Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan. She also works on a freelance basis for the Food Network, doing writing and editing for the website and for shows like "Beat Bobby Flay."

It was while she and her husband, a sommelier, were working together at the farm-inn-restaurant in Cataluna that they began to think of having their own place.

"It was so transformative for us," she said. "We always had the dream of having our own farm and restaurant. We knew about the 1774 inn, and we felt it was meant to be when a friend told us it was up for sale."

Building on a legacy

Courtesy / Sarah Dunagan
Courtesy / Sarah Dunagan
Original wood floors, paneling and open fireplaces have been meticulously maintained in the 18th century inn.

The couple plan to revamp some of the décor, while preserving the inn's overall historical features — all with an eye toward promoting its hospitality and events potential.

"We want to expand on the previous owners' legacy," said Dunagan. "We'll continue to run it as a bed-and-breakfast, but we'll add seasonal tasting menus with beverage pairings," with the help of connections she's making with local fishermen, farmers and foragers.

While the previous owners did some weddings, Dunagan said she'd like to grow the weddings and events side of the business, partnering with local providers like florists and stationary providers. And, she said, they plan to partner with local businesses — like kayak tour operators, fishing trip operators and massage providers — to provide tailored "experience" packages.

The previous owners kept the inn open six months of the year, but Dunagan is planning to be open year-round, starting immediately.

"We think that offering dinners both to guests and the public will help," she said.

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