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November 16, 2018

Former newspaper publisher donates $500,000 to Ellsworth museum

Photo / The Ellsworth American
Photo / The Ellsworth American
Alan Baker, at right, former owner of The Ellsworth American and the Mount Desert Islander, has donated $500,000 to the $8.2 million capital campaign of the Woodlawn Museum in Ellsworth.

Former Ellsworth American owner and publisher Alan Baker has donated $500,000 to the Woodlawn Museum's $8.2 million capital campaign.

The donation will allow it to break ground in the spring on a new multi-purpose facility. Woodlawn has raised just over $6.5 million toward its campaign goal. Baker's gift is Woodlawn's largest from the local community.

Baker told The Ellsworth American that he made the first portion of his gift — $100,000 — five years ago to help launch the Woodlawn campaign and gave an additional $400,000 this fall to help see the project through. The second installment was half the cash proceeds from the sale of his newspapers, Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

Woodlawn is a 180-acre historic estate located a quarter mile from downtown Ellsworth. It includes a historic house museum, gardens, and a public park with walking trails. The house dates back to 1824 and contains original furnishings and family archives. Woodlawn opened as a historic house and public park in 1929.

Today, Woodlawn's mission is to "offer the people of Hancock County and beyond opportunities for recreation and education on a preserved historic estate, and provide connections to the region's cultural heritage through programs that arouse curiosity and entertain," according to the release.

Capital campaign goals include:

  • Transforming the carriage barn into a year-round space for student programs, large functions, changing exhibits and other public programs. The carriage barn, as it now stands, is in a dilapidated condition, according to the release. The plan is to reconstruct the barn to its original size and appearance.
  • Improving the landscape to facilitate increased use, including new parking areas, hidden in the woods to preserve the character of the estate's open fields, that will serve 65 cars; new pedestrian pathways; site improvements for outdoor events; and new utilities.
  • Increasing Woodlawn's endowment to support expanded activities

Baker owned and published the Ellsworth American for 27 years and oversaw the launch of the Mount Desert Islander in 2001. The Orrington resident retired after selling the papers to Maine media entrepreneur Reade Brower earlier this year.

The Campaign for Woodlawn effort received a $4 million matching grant from a private foundation in September 2015 for the project. It received a $1 million anonymous gift in 2016.

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