High Street's musical wonder house becomes home; its owners plan Main Street tavern

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 8:15pm

Three men have bought the 1852, former Musical Wonder House on Wiscasset's High Street to live in, and they plan to open a tavern further north into the village. Planning board members were pleased Monday night to hear the plan for a tavern in space the men will lease from Wawenock LLC on Main Street. The three told reporters afterward, they will call it the Village Tavern and hope to open it in two to three months.

As for the longtime musical museum that attracted visitors worldwide and closed years ago, the property's new co-owner Dan Dyer said they bought it in January for $171,000 and have already put $200,000 into it, including a new roof. It's a magnificent building that would have gone for $5 million had it been in Charleston, South Carolina, the former Cape Elizabeth man said. They are bringing the building back to its former glory, he said.

“It’s wonderful to see it being taken care of,” Pam Dunning said Tuesday, at work across the street in the 1805 building where she is director of Wiscasset Public Library.  Speaking personally and as a former selectman, she said, she loves old buildings, and it was sad seeing the former wonder house’s condition in recent years. “I'm delighted it’s being put in good condition ... And for them to be opening a business in town, that's a bonus. New residents, new business.”

In Monday’s meeting, Dyer expressed enthusiasm for the 18 High Street property, the town and its ripeness for a tavern to add to the beautiful shops and galleries he said the town has. He thanked the town for preserving its history.

He and his two business partners Dana Long and Mike Collins own the Wild Burrito restaurant on Portland's Congress Street. They would like the Wiscasset business to have the feel of a Scottish pub or maybe a French cafe like Boothbay or Ogunquit would have, Dyer said. 

They plan to return to the Wiscasset board in September to propose the tavern. Citing the closure of Le Garage on Water Street, member Deb Pooler said "We need this kind of business."

"I think it would fit really well," Chairman Ray Soule said. He said he'd encouraged Dyer to apply after Dyer became discouraged about the town's application process.

Member Karl Olson said a review the board could have done because the project is under 2,500 square feet cannot be followed without a town planner. Instead, the project needs a full application, but most items can probably be waived, he told Dyer. Olson added, the tavern will likely have more state hoops to jump through than local ones.

Also Monday night, Dyer, Long and Collins met their prospective new neighbor Jacqueline Pierce. Board members told Pierce her planned bed and breakfast at 15 High St. does not need their approval because it will have at most five rental units. That makes it a home occupation, Pooler said.

Pierce's application states the Beverly, Massachusetts woman plans four guest rooms in the main building and, in a second phase, making the back cottage into a two-bedroom guest cottage. The cottage has water, sewer and electricity, but needs renovating, including adding walls, she told the board. Pierce added, the planned rentals would help her secure financing to buy the property.

All she will need from the town is a building permit from the code enforcement officer, Soule said.

The board told representatives of Christopher Juntera's planned brewery Monday, due to a change in the proposal, they need a site plan review but no longer a subdivision one. And the board approved Joseph Gagnon's request to subdivide a Cushman Point Road lot. Gagnon will return next month for the board to sign the updated plan, including showing any wetlands and sewer test sites.