A green cliffside elevator is seen off a porch with an ocean backdrop
A 180-foot-long funicular runs up and down a steep hillside, allowing the owner of this West Bath home to easily get to the dock below. Credit: Courtesy of Tyler Plummer

Peter Eichleay bought his dream home a decade ago when he moved into a secluded house on a bluff in West Bath overlooking Back Cove.

Avid boating enthusiasts, he and his wife did not mind walking on a steep stone path to the dock, a vertical drop of more than 100 feet, although the walk back up with coolers and other items was strenuous even for people in their 20s. That changed in 2014 when they had their first child.

“I had a slip and had to make sure the car seat landed on me instead of some rock,” Eichleay said. “We also were struggling to get things to the dock to use the boats, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.”

This West Bath luxury home has sweeping views of Casco Bay amid a private wooded setting. Credit: Courtesy of Tyler Plummer

The couple expected to add to their family and started looking earnestly for a safer option to get up and down the hillside. They found that people in the Pacific Northwest with homes on steep bluffs had incline elevators. Their home on Harbor Ridge Road is now for sale at nearly $2.7 million with a feature only a few other homes in Maine have.

A few years after installing the incline elevator, they discovered homeowners on nearby Long Island in Casco Bay also had one and Mary Rockefeller Morgan had asked town officials for permission to install a small incline to help her access her seasonal home in Seal Harbor.

Priced at $50,000 and up, incline elevators have been used by an aging population of luxury homebuyers and those wanting easier access to hard-to-reach waterfronts. More recently, younger people are installing them as they plan for mobility issues among family or themselves later in life, said Eric Hausten, marketing manager for Marine Innovations, an incline elevator company based in Minnesota that installed Eichleay’s system. 

An incline elevator runs down a steep hillside to the dock below on this luxury property. Credit: Courtesy of Marine Innovations

The company has installed about 1,000 incline elevators in the U.S. and Canada. Incline elevators only have one car, whereas a funicular system has two counterbalancing cars, but the terms are frequently used interchangeably.

The Eichleays paid $75,000 for a system that can carry 860 pounds or four adults comfortably in the two-and-one-half minute trip down the hillside. Hausten said the system meets elevator standards and can be serviced by local elevator technicians. Marine Innovations checks the pulleys, electronics and parts every couple years, but he said the system parts are coated or sealed and can withstand harsh conditions.

The elevator incline is only one feature of the luxury property, which came onto the market a few days ago. The 4,227-square-foot house, built in 2004, has five bedrooms, three full and one partial bathrooms and is on 3.1 wooded acres. It is part of a 20-member homeowners association with a separate common dock and road and an annual fee of $695.

The property has two living spaces that are connected as a main feature, said Kristina Keaney, a realtor with Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in Portland who is showing the property. It has a westerly view, a trail winding through it, a private deep water dock and overlooks Back Cove, Casco Bay, the New Meadows River and the Hamilton Audubon Sanctuary.

It is secluded yet close enough to drive to good restaurants and other amenities, said Eichleay, a Bowdoin College graduate and aviation entrepreneur whose company, FlightLevel Aviation, manages airports. The family has already moved to Yarmouth to be closer to friends.

A funicular railway is an unusual feature of this West Bath luxury home. Credit: Courtesy of Tyler Plummer

But the West Bath property will remain a special place to Eichleay. He loves the vernal pool at the entryway to the home and not being able to see neighboring houses through the trees.

“It’s just this feeling of leaving encumbrances behind and being able to be home and unwind,” he said of the entryway. “I’m heartbroken to be showing this. It’s really been a magical spot for the past 10 years.”