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July 15, 2019

Designer showhouse to benefit Bar Harbor Historical Society

two women at designer showhouse Photo / Laurie Schreiber Swan Hospitality Group owner and Bar Harbor Designer Showhouse founder and creative director Kim Swan welcomes visitors to the showhouse's preview party July 12.

The third Bar Harbor Designer Showhouse will raise funds toward paying off a loan that allowed the Bar Harbor Historical Society to purchase La Rochelle, the former headquarters of Maine Seacoast Mission.

“Designer showhouses” are events that bring together multiple designers in one venue. They showcase the work of designers and are often used as fundraising events to benefit nonprofits.

The Bar Harbor Designer Showhouse opened at La Rochelle, a former residential estate on West Street in Bar Harbor, with a preview on July 12. The showhouse is sponsored by Swan Hospitality Group and Maine Homes by Down East.

Eight designers donated their time to  renovate and decorate rooms in the mansion, which was recently purchased by the Bar Harbor Historical Society for its new headquarters and museum.

Daily tours of the showhouse started July 13 and will run through Oct. 20, with all proceeds benefitting the Bar Harbor Historical Society.

Pay off mortgage

This is the third showhouse in Bar Harbor, Swan Hospitality Group owner Kim Swan told Mainebiz. Previous beneficiaries were Jackson Laboratory and the historical society.

This year’s showhouse is expected to raise funds toward paying off the society’s loan for the purchase of La Rochelle, and to financially bridge the year between the society acquiring the property and making the full move of its collection from its current home on Ledgelawn Avenue in Bar Harbor.

Photo / Laurie Schreiber
Terri and Gregg Scott created a dining porch at the Bar Harbor Designer Showhouse installed at La Rochelle, a property purchased by the Bar Harbor Historical Society as its new headquarters and museum. An interior designer and architect, respectively, the Scotts live in Lancaster, Penn., and summer in Northeast Harbor.

Swan is founder and creative director of the Bar Harbor Designer Showhouse and also a board member of the historical society.

About half of the society’s holdings have been moved into the upstairs at La Rochelle and the holdings are being inventoried.  

“The collection committee will be working this summer on the inventory,” Swan said in an email to Mainebiz. 

Many of the items on the second and third floors of the Ledgelawn Avenue museum that were not on display to the public were used in the showhouse. Of note, they include a 4-foot by 8-foot painting of the Bluenose ferry, an 1862 map of Maine and a bound copy of the Bar Harbor Times from the 1970s.  

Complicated move

The logistics of moving  the society’s holdings is a daunting task.  

“The board hired Wallace Movers to do the first move,” Swan said. “Board members and Wallace Movers packed tons of boxes. The next move will be far more complicated, as it will be the contents of the first floor of Ledgelawn — all of the displays and resource material there.”

The Ledgelawn museum remains open this summer (Monday through Friday, 1-4 p.m.) so the first floor was left intact for now. The museum will close in mid-October and then the full move-in will take place.

Photo / Laurie Schreiber
Loi Thai, a Washington, D.C., and Castine designer, incorporated an upholstered chair from the former Bar Harbor estate of Joseph Pulitzer in his design. Showhouses, he said, are a good way to experiment and try something different.

Proceeds from the showhouse will go toward paying down the mortgage on La Rochelle.

“Right now we need to raise another $3 million,” Swan said. “We are conservatively estimating $100,000 from the proceeds of the showhouse. We have already passed $10,000 in the first weekend, including the preview party, so we are well on our way.”

The Bar Harbor Historical Society purchased the property, known as La Rochelle and located on the waterfront at 127 West St., for $4.75 million, in a transaction that closed April 2. The purchase was financed by First National Bank and Bar Harbor Bank and Trust.  

La Rochelle was built in 1902 for George Bowdoin. 

Maine Seacoast Mission plans to move its headquarters to a multistory building planned for construction in Northeast Harbor, in order to provide better cost efficiencies that are expected to result in more money for programming. For now, the mission remains operational on the second floor of La Rochelle.

Photo / Laurie Schreiber
The green palette of Loi Thai’s interior design was inspired by the sea.

Ledgelawn Avenue

In the meantime, Swan is handling the listing of the historical society’s current headquarters at 33 Ledgelawn Ave. in Bar Harbor. The Tudor Revival structure, built in 1916, is listed at $795,000.

“There has been a ton of interest” in the property, “but it is a challenging property, as a real creative type will need to see the incredible potential there,” said Swan.

“One of the reasons that we moved the second and third floor contents to La Rochelle was to make it easier to really see the property.  [Historical society director] Debbie Dyer has done such a wonderful job over the last 30 years collecting artifacts of Bar Harbor's history that it was hard to see the ‘real estate’ through the personal property.”

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