ELLSWORTH — Delayed by the pandemic, plans to reconstruct the Woodlawn carriage barn for use as an event and education center are expected to move forward once the Building Committee meets at a date to be determined. That will be followed by the annual meeting of the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, the governing board of Woodlawn, on Jan. 30.
Outgoing President Jon Marshall said that while the old carriage barn has been removed from the property, plans for its replacement are not complete. The new barn will still use material salvaged from the former barn, although most of it is beyond use, Marshall said. The new structure may be slightly smaller than originally planned, he said. The original plan called for the carriage barn to be built on the same footprint as the old one. Renewable or more efficient energy sources, such solar panels and a heat pump, may be added to the plans, Marshall said.
“It will still look like a barn, like the barn that was there,” he said.
The project is part of an estate expansion plan that has already seen a new structure completed in 2019 that houses the estate’s antique carriages and sleighs and renovations to parts of the Black House, including where administrative offices were located.
“I think we have enough funds to start construction and probably complete it. We’re just not sure,” Marshall said. “Construction costs have increased so there may be some things that have changed.”
The $8 million project includes up to $2 million for an endowment that would cover future maintenance and costs. The effort received a $3 million donation that the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations matched through fundraising. Marshall said another $1.3 million needs to be raised, and that the new carriage barn may be completed in phases.
Woodlawn’s expansion plan was rolled it out three years ago. The design also included expanding the parking lot, enlarging the workshop, improving infrastructure and adding a visitors center. A 2018 Historical Preservation Society vote against demolishing three buildings, including the former carriage barn, was reversed by the Ellsworth Board of Appeals, partly based on the fact that the property was never properly designated as a historic site and so is not subject to the ordinance or review by the commission. The Planning Board gave its approval to the plans to expand the historic 180-acre estate, which houses a museum, gardens and walking trails.
Woodlawn is also still searching for an executive director, after Joshua Campbell Torrance took a new position elsewhere last January after a 20-year tenure. Marketing Director Phyllis Young had stepped in as interim executive director, but that arrangement ended with 2020.
Marshall said two candidates for the position withdrew for personal reasons after offers had been extended by Woodlawn, but applications were coming in as recently as six weeks ago, and trustees will return to the pool of applicants.
“We’re back to the drawing board,” he said.
The Black House Museum closed for the season because of the pandemic. Plans to reopen next year are not finalized, Marshall said, “but we think we can’t open till late in the season.”