Construction plans changed
ELLSWORTH — After a long search, Woodlawn Museum and Gardens found its new executive director in Kathy Young. A Camden native who spent 15 years in New Zealand before returning to Maine, Young has over two decades of development work with nonprofits, from the university system in New Zealand to the Coastal Mountain Land Trust in Camden.
“She has a broad range of institutional experience with nonprofits,” said Todd Little-Siebold, president of the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, Woodlawn’s governing body. “But also focus and energy.”
Five days in, Young sat at a small table in her upstairs office with plans and a draft sketch of the new barn at Woodlawn. The building committee had recently met and mostly finalized the building plans for the new carriage barn. The vision has shifted from a venue that could hold, say, a very large wedding party or other event, to one primarily aimed at historic preservation, interpretation and education, all of which hew closer to Woodlawn’s longstanding mission, Young said.
“And, of course, conservation,” she added.
The COVID-19 pandemic closed the museum and slowed both the carriage barn planning process and the securing of a new executive director. But Young said even before then, there was a question surrounding earlier plans for a new event and education center on the footprint of the estate’s original carriage barn.
“Enough of the board and people who care deeply about this place kept returning to [Woodlawn’s] mission,” she said.
On a footprint smaller than originally planned, the barn will showcase exhibitions in a dedicated space, hold a gift shop, restrooms and commercial kitchen and be open year-round.
“There’s an absolute need to have a community space,” Young added. She envisions community cider pressings at Woodlawn using apples from Woodlawn trees instead of sending the fruit to Fogtown Brewing Co., as happened last fall.
“I’m so excited about the possibilities, and we’re so close,” she said.
The rebuilding of the carriage barn has been in the works for over six years and received city permits that now will be re-submitted based on the scaled-back plans. The area has already been excavated, and the first phase of the $8 million project was completed two years ago, with upgrades to water, sewer, power and communications throughout Woodlawn that also allow the barn project to move forward.
“The expansion is really an historic new phase,” Little-Siebold said, “and [Young] has the energy and experience to lead us.”
Young has cast fresh eyes on Woodlawn, from a fundraising perspective and as someone who envisions drawing together a number of separate elements, including the trails, the Hancock County Extension community gardens and the croquet tournaments. She spoke about weekly volunteer trail crews, after-work open croquet and growing the membership from where it now stands at about 400.
“It’s not enough if [people] come and say they’ve been here,” she said. “Whatever would cause you to come back, we have to find a way. And I have ideas.”
To start, she asked the board to consider making summer porch concerts free so locals can “bring a blanket and a bottle of wine.” Rather than charge admission, Young advocates finding event sponsors. And she prefers that 1,000 locals donate $50 or $100 over a large donation from a single donor “because those [smaller donors] are the ones who are going to come [to Woodlawn.]”
She paused before adding: “I just want to change how we talk about supporting Woodlawn.”