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In a district dotted with architectural beauties, the property known as La Rochelle stands out. The Bar Harbor, ME, mansion sits on just under 2 acres and is now on the market for $4.5 million. That represents a price cut from the $6.3 million it was listed for last summer.
Unlike many a summer estate hidden behind rows of hedges and set back after a long drive, the highly visible La Rochelle is right on the street.
“It’s the definition of curb appeal,” says listing agent Kim Swan. “That’s what’s rare. To have a grand, grand house like this, and you can walk to town.”
It’s no small thing, considering that the area population increases exponentially in summer. Parking can be a little bit of a challenge.
The iconic Georgian Revival is located on the historic landmarked West Street on one side, with the ocean in the back. There are 16 beds, eight baths, and two half-baths. Six of the bedrooms are en suite, says Swan.
In 1972, owners Tristram C. Colket Jr., one of the Campbell Soup heirs, and his wife, Ruth Colket, donated the 13,000-square-foot brick building to the Maine Sea Coast Mission, which named it the Colket Center. The nonprofit provides assistance to underserved residents living in the surrounding area.
Facing high costs for the upkeep of the mansion and landscaping, the nonprofit has decided to sell the place and move to a building with lower overhead, notes Swan. The assets of the sale will go toward the group’s mission. So as a bonus for buying the gorgeous house, you’re also helping a good cause.
Despite it being the headquarters of a nonprofit for the past four decades, the interior hasn’t been altered much. The grand main floor, double staircase, high ceilings, and large public rooms are still intact. The layout also contains a glassed-in solarium with views of the beach, and multiple fireplaces, original woodwork, and outdoor space with spectacular ocean views.
The third floor, which contains multiple small rooms, once served as servants quarters. Swan notes there may have been as many as 22 servants living there at the time the home was built. Those rooms have since been used for storage.
The next owner will want to update the kitchens and baths, which haven’t been touched in years.
The 1902 “cottage,” as it’s known here, was the town’s first brick summer home, built for banker George S. Bowdoin, a great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton. (Yes, that Alexander Hamilton, first U.S. Treasury secretary.) The cost to build the retreat was around $100,000, according to reports at the time. When Bowdoin died in 1913, the home was passed to his widow, Julia Irving Grinnell, and his daughter, Edith Bowdoin, and eventually to the Colkets.
Since it’s been on the market, Swan has fielded calls from some interested parties who want to turn the eye-catching real estate into a boutique hotel.
If you were thinking along those lines, you should know the home is zoned only for residential use. However, using this place as a short-term rental with a one-week minimum is an option for a buyer when not using the home, Swan notes.
Bar Harbor has been a draw since the 1880s, when wealthy New Yorkers headed north for some relief in the summer, and competed to build beautiful homes and gardens. Area residents included John D. Rockefeller Jr., who donated about a third of the adjacent Acadia National Park; Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, who was born in Bar Harbor; Cornelius Vanderbilt; and the Astor family.
In nearby Seal Harbor, tastemaker Martha Stewart has a vacation home, Skylands, which was once owned by Edsel Ford.
While the price tag is hefty, you’ll get not only a stunning and historic vacation home, but also karma points for helping a worthy organization. We bet even Alexander Hamilton would approve of that math.