The historic Turrets cottage under renovationThe historic Turrets cottage under renovation


A stately stone mansion graced with views of Frenchman Bay and appointed with dark paneling and circular niches, Turrets serves as the main administration building for College of the Atlantic, providing distinctive classroom and meeting space for staff, faculty, and the college’s 350 undergraduates.

The building — the first structure in Bar Harbor to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in 1974 — was built in 1895 and designed by Bruce Price, architect of the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City.

The 2013 renovation preserved the outer envelope of the building, reconstructed two oceanside turrets and replaced windows and doors using energy-saving and historically accurate materials.

Work began in April 2013. A crew of workers with EL Shea Inc., Hahnel Brothers Co., and Joseph Gnazzo Co. spent months replacing 99 windows, more than 20 doors, seven chimneys, and the slate roof. Also, the entire exterior of the building was repointed.

“Turrets is a true treasure not only for our campus, but also for the town of Bar Harbor, the state of Maine and well beyond,” said Millard Dority, director of the college’s building and grounds who supervised the project. “Through the extraordinary effort of all those involved, this project ensures another century of use of this important landmark. It was my pleasure to plan for and manage this important project for College of the Atlantic.”

“Turrets has played an evolving but always monumental role throughout the history of this college,” said COA President Dr. Darron Collins ’92. “The restoration was expensive in financial and human resources, but worth it in every respect. With a sound and aesthetically beautiful building envelope, we expect Turrets to be the center of gravity for this institution for centuries to come.”

More than 100 workers spent two years building it in 1895 for John Josiah Emery of Cincinnati, who gifted it to his 18-year-old bride, Lela Alexander. Construction was a massive undertaking, and included quarrying stone from near Eagle Lake and transporting it by draft horse.

The college purchased the property from the Oblate Seminary in the early 1970s, abandoned and in disrepair but having survived the great 1947 fire that leveled scores of structures on the island.

“Turrets has been like a trusted old friend,” said architect Roc Caivano, who has been designing on the island for more than 25 years. “It survived the 1947 fire and was the place of refuge after the fire that destroyed Kaelber Hall in 1983.”

“It is significant in Bar Harbor’s history and a significant example of American residential architecture,” said Caivano, who came to COA to teach architecture and design in 1974. COA renovated the historic treasure “just as it works to save and renew the environmental treasures around us,” he said.

Maine Preservation officials acknowledged that, despite major restoration efforts in 1977, 1987, and 1989, the college faced challenges including a slate roof and granite facing that were deteriorating. In 2012, after extensive campus discussion, the COA community decided to restore the building, launched a major fundraising drive, and committed to funding the $3.7 million project focused on three critical building components: masonry, roof, and windows.

The masonry work included a comprehensive repair of the building’s granite masonry façade. Painstaking care was taken to install a new slate roof that matched the existing Monson slate roof. A combination of new, historically accurate windows and meticulously restored, original windows were installed.

Turrets “is one of Maine’s historic and architectural treasures,” Maine Preservation officials said in a news release. “The College of the Atlantic community’s commitment to preserve the structure has resulted in a beautiful and functional building, which is now the centerpiece of the college’s campus.”

The Maine Preservation 2014 Honor Awards recognize excellence in historic preservation throughout Maine; highlight the importance of preservation, rehabilitation, and adaptive use of important historic Maine landmarks; and encourage the use of historic buildings for downtown and neighborhood revitalization.

The 2014 Honor Awards ceremony was held Nov. 19 in Falmouth, and honored 11 projects and four individuals from a list of nominations submitted last summer.

Collins will speak in further detail about the renovation at the annual meeting of the Maine chapter of the American Institute of Architects, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, at Portland Public Library. For information, call 200-5978.