A historic estate in Ellsworth might soon get an $8 million addition thanks to a recent $400,000 donation.
The $400,000 gift from former Ellsworth American owner Alan Baker leaves Woodlawn Museum about $1.7 million short of its goal of $8.2 million to build a new barn on the 180-acre property off West Main Street, said Joshua Torrance, the museum’s executive director.
The new barn will allow the museum — which is the preserved historic estate of three generations of the family of Col. John Black, who finished building the elegant Federalist-style mansion in 1827 — to expand programming for schools and host paid events in a new banquet hall.
“We have really just been trying to raise the money to finish things off,” Torrance said. “Mr. Baker’s gift certainly helps us move in that direction.”
The Woodlawn property includes the former Black House, a croquet lawn, community gardens and trails in the woods behind the house, and helps illustrate what life was like in the 1800s.
The barn will include a banquet hall that can seat 150 to 180 people and an attached catering-capable kitchen that can be used for weddings, corporate events or similar functions. The $400,000 donation follows a $100,000 donation from Baker five years ago, according to the Ellsworth American.
The $400,000 donation was announced Nov. 15.
Baker’s donation is Woodlawn’s largest gift from the local community since the museum began raising funds for the barn almost four years ago. It “demonstrates his confidence in our project,” Terry Carlisle, president of the museum’s board of trustees, said in a statement.
Besides giving the estate more room for its collection of artifacts and for traveling exhibits from other museums, the new barn will allow for the continued growth of the museum’s school programs, which have brought more than 5,000 students to the museum over the last several years.
It also gives Hancock County a large and modern function and event space that it needs, museum officials have said.
The new barn’s plans call for disassembling the old barn on the Woodlawn property and incorporating as much of it into the new structure as possible. This will help keep alive the authentic feel of the estate, Torrance said.
The project has already been issued all of its permits. All that remains, Torrance said, is to finish raising money and to start building – hopefully next spring, so the building can open the year of Maine’s bicentennial, in 2020.
“The clock is ticking,” he said.