Nonprofit to sell 115 year-old waterfront mansion in Bar Harbor

More than 100 years after it was built, and 45 years after it was donated to a local ecumenical nonprofit organization, a highly visible mansion on the Bar Harbor waterfront is going on the market.

The Maine Sea Coast Mission announced Tuesday that it plans to sell La Rochelle, a brick 13,000 square-foot Greek Revival-style mansion prominently located on West Street. The mansion was donated to the Mission in 1972 by Tristram C. Colket Jr., one of several heirs to the Campbell’s Soup fortune, and his wife Ruth Colket.

The mansion has served as the mission’s headquarters, which it calls the Colket Center, since it moved in. The mission’s president, the Rev. Scott Planting, said that the mission will be forever grateful for the Colkets’ gift but that the time is right — as is the real estate market — for selling the property.

The combined assessed value for the mansion and the 2.9-acre waterfront lot it sits on is $5.3 million, according to Bar Harbor assessing records.

“We want to convert this asset into services and programs for Downeast Maine,” Planting said Wednesday.

The mission’s programs provide pastoral, medical and other services to residents of Maine’s offshore islands and other communities along the state’s eastern coast.

Planting said the mission has not yet decided where its new headquarters will be but that it plans to remain based in the Mount Desert Island area.

According to information listed in Bar Harbor’s online assessing records, the mansion was built in 1867, but this does not appear to be accurate. Several other sources, including the mission’s own website and the Mount Desert Island Historical Society, say it was constructed in 1902.

An article published 115 years ago in the defunct bi-weekly newspaper Bar Harbor Record (and posted online by MDI photographer George Soules) indicates that the mansion was built by George S. Bowdoin — a banker and who was a great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury — at an approximate cost of $100,000.

Despite the mansion’s long status as a nonprofit headquarters, some of its original Gilded-Age design elements are still in place. Below is a photo I took and posted to my Instagram account in 2013 (can’t find the original) of a call box that showed household staff where to report when they were being summoned via the mansion’s buzzer system.

Other photos of La Rochelle can be found here.

Bill Trotter

About Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors. He writes about fisheries, marine-related topics, eastern coastal Maine communities and more for the BDN. He lives in Ellsworth. Follow him on Twitter at @billtrotter.