When Isaac Robbins was eight years old, he remembers going to a friend’s birthday party at an old, idiosyncratic and sprawling Blue Hill home that had arches and turrets like a castle.
So when the building, known as the Barncastle, went up for sale in 2007, he and his wife, Lori, jumped at the chance to buy it. Since then, they have turned the Barncastle into a hopping destination for food and music on the Blue Hill Peninsula.
But now, after 16 summer seasons, they’re looking for someone else to take over. The Barncastle Hotel and Restaurant, as it has been dubbed under Robbins, went up for sale earlier this month. Built in 1884 by Boston architect and Blue Hill native George Clough, the 9,000-square-foot, five-room hotel is listed at $1.6 million.
A typical inn it is not. The Barncastle’s hallmark is the combination of the aforementioned castle-like features with old New England architecture. Realtor Dana Moos said she’s never had another property like it.
“A lot of buyers want that ‘wow factor,’” she said. “You don’t have to really try at all with a place like this.”
It wasn’t always that way, though.
The original building was just a small cape built in 1834. The owner, Effie Kline, went on to marry the lawyer for John D. Rockefeller, and, not wanting to destroy her birthplace, built the Barncastle around it.
The original building is now completely obscured with the exception of a small portion of shingle roof in the attic. The Barncastle now boasts some eccentric architecture designs, including a split staircase in the foyer and an inside balcony to the delight of guests.
The hotel even has some film credentials. According to the Ellsworth American, a cocktail party scene in the 1989 movie Pet Sematary was shot there.
“Although unconventional in many respects, ‘Barncastle,’ nonetheless emerges as a striking and impressive summer cottage,” according to the inn’s 1980 National Register of Historic Places form.
Robbins said he and his wife had a background in restaurants and decided to take over the Barncastle more than a decade ago because it was left unused for several years.
“We just couldn’t stand that the building was sitting there,” he said. “We knew the building had a lot of character and charm. People know it and love it.”
During their tenure at the Barncastle, the business has evolved. It started out with a couple of rooms and a 30-seat restaurant. By 2020, the restaurant had expanded to about 125 seats. It was scaled back when the pandemic hit and the restaurant turned to takeout only.
Now that tourism has come back, the Barncastle operates its five rooms and small restaurant and pub, and recently started hosting concerts in a converted barn on the property.
With their daughter recently graduated from high school, the Robbins family is now looking for the right person who has the passion to carry on the building’s legacy. He thinks they probably could have sold in the pandemic bonanza as a residential building, but that just didn’t feel right.
“We really do feel like we’ve been stewards of the building,” he said. “If someone decides to buy this, we would love for it to continue to be a place for people to come and enjoy.”