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The historic La Rochelle mansion in Bar Harbor is on the market. A month after the Maine Seacoast Mission said would move out of its longtime, now-pricey headquarters, the 16-bedroom estate is listed for $6.295 million.
Kimberly Swan of The Swan Agency Sotheby’s International Realty is handling the listing.
The unusual nature of the property, located in Bar Harbor’s West Street Historic District — comprising a concentration of summer “cottages” built in the early 20th century — made it difficult to price, said Swan.
“The problem is that there’s nothing like it,” she said. Other historic homes on West Street are on smaller lots. “This is a triple lot, a huge three acres, with 500 feet on the water. There’s nothing comparable, so it was a hard property to price.”
Maine Seacoast Mission provides medical and dental care to underserved coastal and island communities, as well as pastoral and spiritual support for those seeking it. All proceeds from the sale will directly support Maine Seacoast Mission.
Ultimately, she said, the price was based on a combination of the town’s assessment of over $5 million, the potential for dividing the land and board input.
The current owner, the Maine Seacoast Mission, is selling the property as is. “The mission did not want to divide the land,” she said. “But down the line, there’s investment potential there, because it appears that somebody could sell off a lot.”
Zoned as a shoreland property, future use does not allow for a bed-and-breakfast or inn, as some of the other big houses are used, Swan said. The zoning allows for single-family-home use.
“I think that’s the highest and best use for the property,” she said.
The mission was able to use the building for its offices because it was gifted the property in 1972, preceding today’s zoning regulation.
However, Swan and her team are consulting with the town to see if the building can still be used for offices, events, or something similar.
“We have that question into the town now,” she said.
The building is in excellent shape, she said. Architectural details include Georgian revival columns inside and out; double doors in main areas like the living room and dining room; intricate moldings; carved doors; and a sweeping double staircase. The attention to detail in the building’s construction can be seen in the spindles upholding the staircase bannisters: rather than one uniform style of spindle, they incorporate two alternating varieties of spiral carving. Outside, a vast lawn and gardens sweep down to a little beach area by the harbor.
The buyer will likely want to upgrade the kitchen and bathrooms, said Swan.
“That’s what people do in any house these days,” she said. “These are just old. But kitchens and baths are easy. What you can’t replicate is the architectural detail.”
The property went on the market Aug. 16. The mission remains in place, and is actively searching across Mount Desert Island and in the neighboring town of Trenton for a new facility, said the Rev. Scott Planting, the mission’s president, reached two days after La Rochelle went on the market.
“We are looking at everything,” Planting said. “Our preference is to stay on MDI. We’ve been here 112 years and our boat, the Sunbeam, is here.”
There’s a chance the mission will lease space, at least to start, he said. It’s also looking at purchasing a building, or building new. The mission needs about 4,000 square feet of space, for nine employees currently at the La Rochelle site, he said. That’s far less than La Rochelle’s 13,000 square feet of living space.
“It might be that we’ll need temporary housing,” he said.
The price range for a new facility has not been worked out yet: “We’re really at the beginning of this whole process,” he said.
The costs of being at La Rochelle, over $100,000 per year, are one factor in the decision to sell, he said. But the major consideration was the property’s increase in value.
“The board felt that this asset would be much better used to benefit the programs and services provided by the Mission rather than as a house,” he said.
The mission uses the first floor for meeting and function rooms, the second floor for administrative offices, and the third floor for its archive, Christmas program and additional offices.
La Rochelle has more than 40 rooms. It features three acres of manicured lawns and gardens, with a view of the ocean.
It was constructed starting in 1902 for George Sullivan Bowdoin, great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton and partner at J.P. Morgan. Bowdoin commissioned Andrews, Jacques & Rantoul, Architects to design the Georgian Revival home, the first Bar Harbor mansion to be constructed of brick, which was completed in 1903, according to a press release from The Swan Agency.
Following the death of George Sullivan Bowdoin in 1913 and his son, Temple, in 1914, the property passed to Bowdoin’s daughter, Edith Bowdoin. Edith, a philanthropist and major supporter of the ASPCA, is best known today for her donations of water troughs and fountains for horses in Bar Harbor and New York. After Edith’s death the 1940s, La Rochelle was acquired by the Colket family of Philadelphia.
The Colkets took great pride in La Rochelle and were widely renowned for their impeccably maintained property — hedges trimmed to perfection, lawns mowed in perfect English stripes, and the gravel driveway raked daily. The Colkets donated La Rochelle to the Maine Seacoast Mission, in 1972. La Rochelle has served as the nonprofit’s headquarters and is currently called The Colket Center.