Collector cars line the lawns at East of Eden in Bar Harbor last summer. The estate, owned by William Ruger, is listed for sale for $15.5 million. PHOTO BY EARL BRECHLIN

Historic, high-end houses hit market

MOUNT DESERT — Several of the most desirable oceanfront, luxury properties on Mount Desert Island have been placed on the market in the last month or so. Ranging in price from $6.2 million to $19 million, some, if sold for the asking prices, will set new records for the most expensive residences in Maine.

At the very top is Ringing Point in Seal Harbor, the seasonal residence of the late David Rockefeller Sr., offered for sale at $19 million and listed as being under contract in less than a week of hitting the market. It is located on 14.5 spectacular waterfront acres, with 2,500 feet of frontage, at the entrance to Seal Harbor.

The main house, designed by Rockefeller’s late wife Peggy in 1972, includes seven bedrooms, five full bathrooms and one half bath. It has expansive views of the ocean, woods and glades, an orchard and a rose garden, as well as a granite swimming pool. The property also boasts a study in a separate structure, a garage and a large guest house.

The Seal Harbor summer home of the late David Rockefeller Sr. has been listed for sale for $19 million. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE KNOWLES COMPANY

Property taxes on the 5,000-square-foot home run $68,512 a year based on an assessed value of $9.2 million.

It is being sold, per David Rockefeller Sr.’s will, to be added to the proceeds of the liquidation of his estate, art collection and other assets going to charity, including many on MDI.

Mia Thompson of the Knowles Co. is co-agent on the listing. “In the 28 years of selling real estate along the coast of Maine I have never seen, or had the pleasure of listing and showing, a property such as Ringing Point,” Thompson said. “The attention to detail is exquisite, both in design and in the integration of the living spaces within the landscape. A true pleasure.”

At the Rockefeller estate executor’s request, showings on the property have been stopped as the sale moves toward a closing.

Also currently listed for sale with Knowles is East of Eden, the estate of William Ruger, on Eden Street in Bar Harbor. The listing price is $15.5 million. It is a Mediterranean-style waterfront villa built in 1909. Designed by Boston architect Guy Lowell, it has been fully restored by Ruger, the former owner of the firearm company started by his father, Strum and Ruger. The house has eight bedrooms, nine full bathrooms and three half baths.

Property taxes on the 15,000-square-foot house run $55,640 per year based on an assessed value of $5.2 million.

Over the years, Ruger has added adjoining properties to where the lot now boasts nine acres and more than 1,100 feet of ocean frontage. It includes an automobile collector’s garage, several outbuildings and a deep-water dock.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, East of Eden was one of the few grand summer “cottages” from the town’s gilded age to survive the Great Fire of 1947. An earlier cottage on the property was called Sonogee. It was destroyed by fire. So, when the current house was built, the owners, Kate and Walter Ladd, reversed the letters in the name and called the house “Eegonos.”

According to listing agent Susan Ferrante-Collier, “the house is one of the last true Bar Harbor treasures.” She explained that Ruger spent years restoring the house and grounds as a “true labor of love.”

While Ruger preserved all the historical details, he upgraded the property with the latest technology, utilities, and modern conveniences, she explained. “He’s done a total restoration. It will surely last another 100 years,” she said.

Also in August, the Maine Seacoast Mission decided to place its West Street headquarters, La Rochelle, a period summer cottage built in a Georgian Revival style, on the market. It too is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Maine Seacoast Mission has listed La Rochelle, its headquarters on West Street in Bar Harbor, for sale for $6.2 million. FILE PHOTO

The waterfront home, which is listed by Swan Agency Sotheby’s International Realty at a price of $6.29 million, boasts 16 bedrooms and 10 full bathrooms. There are a total of 41 rooms with 13,000 square feet of space. Most are used for office or meeting spaces.

The Mission’s board decided to convert the value of the property into funds that could help further its operations bringing charitable relief, health care and spiritual and educational assistance to people on offshore islands and throughout Downeast Maine. The move is being undertaken with the blessings of the Colket family, who originally donated the property to the Mission and have supported the facility’s operation and upkeep over several decades.

“La Rochelle is the most notable and well-loved structure and property in Bar Harbor with stunning architecture both inside and out,” commented listing agent Kim Swan. “The almost three acre lot with 500 feet on the water is one of the largest, privately held, oceanfront parcels in the village.”

Because it is owned by a non-profit, Bar Harbor doesn’t tax the property although it estimates its value at $5.3 million.

Swan, Thompson, and Ferrante-Collier agree that it requires a special type of buyer to appreciate these types of high-end residences.

“Buyers for such properties are people who want privacy and quality of place,” said Thompson. “Their time is at a premium and they want to be in a place that affords them the ability to relax and enjoy life. Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park brings all of that together with its beauty, quiet and opportunity for adventure by land or sea.”

“You have to find someone who appreciates fine craftsmanship and the sense of history that comes with it,” Ferrante-Collier said.

According to Swan, interest in La Rochelle is already running high. “We are already getting inquiries from across the country as there has been immediate press attention to this amazing offering,” she said.

“We have already seen a significant pick up in the luxury market which bodes for a strong fall with closings therefore set for late in the year,” she added.

Setting records with the sales of seasonal homes on MDI is nothing new. When TV producer Dick Wolf, of “Law and Order” fame, purchased Southerly in Seal Harbor from the Hudson family in 2003, that sales price, $10.5 million, was a state record.

Since then, the highest price sale recorded in the multiple listing service for Maine was $12,250,000 for Indian Head Lane in Northeast Harbor in 2011.

And, even if the current batch of waterfront estates listed for sale set new records, it may not be too long before even they are eclipsed. Several private seasonal residences recently built on Mount Desert Island could eventually be listed for sale at prices between $30 million and $40 million.

Earl Brechlin

Editor at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander editor Earl Brechlin first discovered Mount Desert Island 35 years ago and never left. The author of seven guide and casual history books, he is a Registered Maine Guide and has served as president of the Maine and New England Press Associations. He and his wife live in Bar Harbor.

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