Boothbay’s Kenniston Hill House spared demolition
The Kenniston house overlooking Boothbay Common since the late 1700s barely escaped a meeting with a wrecking crew this week.
For the last three months, Susan Brackett has spearheaded a community effort to relocate the iconic building that was slated for demolition to make way for the new entrance to the Boothbay Harbor Country Club.
Knickerbocker Group President Steve Malcom said he, too, has been seeking an alternative to losing the historic structure.
“I have been trying not to tear this building down for a year and a half,” Malcom said last week.
But by the end of last week, time appeared to be running out for the centuries-old Kenniston house. Brackett and Malcom said on Thursday that they had been unable to locate a new home for the building, and confirmed that its demolition would begin Monday, Nov. 24.
But fate, or perhaps original owner David Kenniston, who Brackett said she frequently asks for help, intervened.
Erin Cooperrider, local resident and development director for Community Housing of Maine, had been into Brackett’s Boothbay Harbor Framers and Gallery a few times over the last few months and had heard about the relocation effort.
“Coincidentally, I was in the shop on the day the demolition was announced,” Cooperrider said. “I said to Bob (Eisele) ‘I think I have a plan that could save it.’”
Cooperrider called Brackett and then got in touch with Dr. Chip Teel of the ElderCare Network.
The Elder Care Network is a nonprofit organization that provides home-like assisted living in Lincoln county, as well as a range of stay-at-home assistance programs for the elderly. The nonprofit maintains seven village homes, including the Boothbay Green, which is located across the street from the Kenniston Hill Inn.
Teel, the board’s president, said that although the Elder Care board has been very interested in accepting the Kenniston house (to expand services and facilities for the Boothbay area), the financial costs associated with its renovation and maintenance were too much for the group to bear.
“We thought the whole idea was dead,” Teel said on Sunday evening. “Then I got a call from Erin Cooperrider, who as a project developer for CHOM, has done several affordable projects in the Boothbay region.”
CHOM is a nonprofit that owns, develops and maintains quality, service-enriched, affordable housing for people with low incomes and special needs. Cooperrider told Teel that CHOM would be willing to assume responsibility for the Kenniston house.
Over the weekend, the Elder Care Network, with CHOM’s backing, signed the legal documents to transfer the historic portion of the Kenniston house to its property at the Boothbay Green.
Teel said plans for the renovated Kenniston house have not been developed, but he said the building is likely to provide both community meeting space and respite housing.
“I think the building needs to be repurposed and not just moved someplace where it will sit,” Cooperrider said. “And at Boothbay Green, there was not only a group willing to accept it, it will also be kept in its historical context.”
On Monday morning, Nov. 24, Malcom confirmed that Boothbay Harbor Country Club owner Paul Coulombe had verbally approved the transfer with some stipulations, including that the move be accomplished by Dec. 5.
With time of the essence, all parties are now working hard to get a great deal done in a very short time.
On Monday morning, as the back building was being torn down, Les Fossel’s crew was beginning to separate the “L” from the historic main house in preparation for its move.
Teel said house movers and foundation excavators had also been contacted and were ready to begin work this week to support the move. Malcom said Knickerbocker Group would be assisting, as well.
In an email to supporters on Monday morning, Brackett said, “I am doing a guarded happy dance.”