MDI Mansions: A Historical Tour

Adrienne DiPiazza

Updated 6 months ago

From the vantage of a lobster boat, the edge of Mount Desert Island is quiet. Historic mansions stand supreme.

“I’ve traveled around the world and I’ve never seen a countryside like this,” says Estate Manager, Michael Hallet.

But who made such estately marks on unsoiled land?

“It’s riding on the coattails of the gilded age certainly,” he explains.

There’s the “Campbell’s Soup” home, another, built by a German immigrant for his wife, who didn’t make it over on the Titanic, and then “East of Eden” originally named Eegonos and built for the Ladd family in the early 1900’s. The wife, Kate Macy, you’ve heard of that department store.

“This house was built using no power tools I mean that alone is amazing to me to think about,” Hallet said.

After changing hands a few times, now Estate Manager, Michael Hallet’s architect brother and partners bought it cheap.

“The asking price back in the 70’s was under 100,000.”

And 15 years ago, Bill Ruger of Ruger Firearms and spent a year, and more than a million dollars restoring it to its original splendor.

“We took every tile off the roof and replaced about a third of them,” Hallet says.

Which included removing all ten chimneys and patching the foundation. Hallet says it took Ruger’s detailed personality to bring the home to what it is now.

“This house had a staff of fourteen people who has a staff of 14 people anymore? Nobody.”

That staff ran all 17,000 square feet, 7 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms. Most of the furniture is original like the dining room table, some isn’t though, like the handmade storage.

“What is a house with fourteen fireplaces without a wood box,” Hallet chuckles.

Hallet shows us the home with fondness, pointing out tiny artistic details.

“I know the house intimately.”

A butler’s pantry just for table-top items, like drinks and custom china.

“This is the working kitchen.”

Spaces with natural wood baseboard indicate it was the area for staff. A stop past the elevator takes us to the basement steps where we find the heating system– miles and miles of copper pipes.

“We have 27 zones,” he explains.

And a 3,000 gallon oil tank to heat the home year round. Above ground, there’s an 8 car garage sometimes stocked with quite a collection. Unlike many island mansion owners, Hallet tells us Bill is here one week every month at least.

“I love living here, I’ve always loved being in Bar harbor,” Hallet says.

A short drive into downtown Bar Harbor takes us to “The Sunset,” an entirely different style mansion, but also more than a hundred years old and on the National Historic Registry.

“Whoever built this house did a great job,” says Bernie Boisvert.

Meet Bernie Boisvert, a jack of all trades who’s been taking care of MDI Mansions for more than 20 years.

“Everybody says jeeze you guys live in such a beautiful place. And I say yeah, it’s heaven,” Boisvert laughs.

He does it all…from checking each room, to mowing the lawn and most importantly, winterizing.

“You never know what’s going to happen in the winter in Maine.”

The Virginia owners have only stayed here twice in the last four years. In between, it’s filled with renters, which grow the island’s population five times its year-round numbers. Boisvert keeps his job with pride.

“I enjoy it. It’s fun. Believe it or not, it’s a good job.”

The traditional home is more subtle, but still has an all-wood butlers pantry and multiple living rooms on three floors. Boisvert takes us to his favorite spot.

“Going to the third floor and standing on that balcony and just looking around.”

The name “Sunset” begins to make more sense.

We ask both Hallet and Boisvert what all the hype was then and now.

“It’s all here,” Hallet states.

“You got houses that are camps…. And then you got houses like this on the island that are million dollar mansions. And you got an eclectic group of people that live here,” says Boisvert.

Possibly just a drive, from either of the astounding mansions answers the question.

“Acadia National Park thank God that’s here, it’s unspoiled, it’s natural it’s spectacular,” Hallet said.


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