Family firm buys 2 hotel properties in Hancock County

Posted May 22, 2009, at 9:02 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:08 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A family that owns several hotels in Bar Harbor has expanded its holdings in Hancock County with the recent purchase of two hotel properties, one in Bar Harbor and the other in Hancock.

The Witham Family Limited Partnership, which owns The Bar Harbor Inn and the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel, has purchased the Best Western on Route 3 in the Bar Harbor village of Salisbury Cove and the White Birches Hotel in Hancock from businessman Dale Hadlock.

Earlier this year, the Witham company acquired the Quality Inn and the Aurora Inn, both in downtown Bar Harbor, from Peter and Sally Vacca. Last year, the company purchased the oceanfront Atlantic Oakes Resort and Conference Center in Bar Harbor from the Cough family.

David J. Witham, CEO of the partnership, personally owns the Acadia Inn on Eden Street, across the street from the Atlantic Oakes. Witham said Friday that with the recent acquisitions, he and his family own about 750 hotel rooms at seven properties in Bar Harbor, which have a total assessed value of $34.5 million.

“I’m a strong believer in the Bar Harbor tourist market,” Witham said. “These properties don’t go on the market very often.”

The White Birches property in Hancock, he said, is more of a “challenge.” Usage of the property, which also includes a restaurant and a golf course, has fallen off in recent years, he said.

“It used to be one of the busiest properties in the area,” Witham said. “I’d like to restore it to its former glory.”

Witham said that in the past couple of weeks, he has had contractors working to fix up the Best Western and White Birches properties. The sale of the properties by Hadlock to the Witham family closed on May 13. Witham has purchased new furniture and improved the landscaping to the hotel grounds, he said.

Witham said he plans to keep the existing staffs at his recently acquired hotels, at least for the short term. He said managers with the family partnership will supervise the operations of his new hotels.

Witham also recently acquired the Song of the Sea building on West Street in downtown Bar Harbor from Ed and Anne Damm, who plan to move their business online and to operate out of their home. The properties on all sides of the Song of the Sea building are owned by a rival of Witham’s, hotelier Thomas Walsh, whose family owns Ocean Properties, one of the largest privately held hotel and resort companies in the United States.

Witham said he bought the Damms’ building because it was one of the last remaining available commercial waterfront properties in downtown Bar Harbor. He said he also plans to fix up the building and to rent out the upper floors as an apartment.

“It’s for rent right now,” Witham said of the apartment, which overlooks the harbor.

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