A mansion that houses the headquarters of the Maine Seacoast Mission, on West Street in downtown Bar Harbor, has been sold to the local historical society for $4.75 million, society officials announced Tuesday, April 2. Credit: Bill Trotter

The Bar Harbor Historical Society has completed its purchase of a historic waterfront mansion in the scenic downtown village, clearing the way for the society eventually to move its headquarters and archives into the 117-year-old building.

The society acquired the mansion, known as La Rochelle, on Tuesday from the Maine Seacoast Mission for $4.75 million, society officials said. The mansion has 41 rooms and more than 13,000 square feet of living space. It sits on a 2.9-acre lot.

The society does not have immediate plans to move, according to Kim Swan, a member of the group’s board of directors. It plans to keep its headquarters at a former convent on Ledgelawn Avenue, which is on the market for $795,000, through at least the summer, she said.

La Rochelle, which was built in 1902, has been the property of the Maine Seacoast Mission since 1972, when Tristram C. Colket Jr., one of several heirs to the Campbell’s Soup fortune, and his wife, Ruth Colket, donated it to the group. The mission is a non-denominational ecumenical nonprofit organization that provides pastoral, educational, and medical support to residents of several offshore islands and coastal towns in Washington County.

Mission officials have said they plan to use the proceeds from the sale of the mansion to help support its programs. The mission plans to move its offices to another building that is planned, but not yet built, in Northeast Harbor, which is the home port of its flagship vessel Sunbeam. The mission uses the vessel, which is undergoing an overhaul, to deliver services to island residents.

According to Swan, the Maine Seacoast Mission will rent the second floor of the mansion from the historical society and use it as its headquarters for another year, to allow time for its new headquarters in Northeast Harbor to be completed.

She said that the historical society hopes to be able to offer at least partial tours of La Rochelle to the public this summer.

“We want to create a world-class destination for experiencing the rich history of Bar Harbor at La Rochelle, so will take the time necessary to make that work,” she said. “Consultants have been hired to assist with that planning.”

Swan credited donor Karol Foss, a seasonal Bar Harbor resident and “a lover of history and a longtime supporter of BHHS,” with providing a major gift to the society that helped make the purchase of La Rochelle possible. Swan did not disclose the size of Foss’ donation.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....