Workers with construction firm E.L. Shea spread out gravel on Tuesday, June 28, where a new foundation will be built for an event barn under construction at Woodlawn Museum in Ellsworth. The new large building, which replaces an old barn that had fallen into disrepair, will be availble to use for weddings, fundraising events, and corporate gatherings. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Woodlawn Museum is moving ahead with construction of a new barn on the property that will fill a local need for venues that can host small gatherings.

The 6,600-square-foot structure is being built where a deteriorating old barn was removed a few years ago. It is expected to be completed by late summer 2023. The new building will include space for educational programming for local schools and will have room to seat 120 people.

Kathy Young, the museum’s executive director, said the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which slowed fundraising and significantly increased construction costs, made the museum decide to scale back its plans.

Its initial building concept, developed in the mid-2010s, was to build a banquet hall that could seat 150 to 180 people with a commercial-scale kitchen that could be used for weddings, corporate events or similar functions. The barn was going to have roughly 12,000 square feet of space, about twice the size of what is being built now.

Young said the revised plan still includes archival storage in a basement vault, a research center on the second floor, and a support kitchen that can be used for smaller-scale gatherings. The local annual cider and cheese festival, a relatively intimate event hosted by Heart of Ellsworth that does not require use of a commercial-scale kitchen, would be a good fit for the new space, she said.

Taylor said the expected construction costs for the barn to total around $5 million. She said the museum still needs to raise more money for furniture and speciality items that will be in the new barn. Additional money that has been raised during the museum’s recent capital campaign will go toward programming and to fund the museum endowment.

“We have enough to build the building,” she said.

After years of fundraising and waiting out the pandemic, the museum’s board of trustees were “thrilled” to finally sign a construction contract for the project this past spring, museum officials said.

“This will transform Woodlawn, and I couldn’t be more excited,” said Todd Little-Siebold, president of the board. “So many people have helped us get to this point and we are grateful for that support. I believe the community will be impressed with what we build.”

The focal point of the 180-acre property is the former home of Col. John Black, who finished building the elegant Federalist-style brick mansion in 1827. There also is a regulation croquet lawn and a carriage barn that houses a display of the museum’s carriage collection.

The museum opened for the summer last week, though the construction project is having a temporary effect on how visitors can access the property. All parking is on the south side of the Black House, where there is a new access point to the trails that loop through the woods behind where the new barn is being built.

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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....