SEARSPORT, Maine — A three-story sea captain’s house in Searsport that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places was expected to be sold Friday afternoon for about a third of its purchase price in 2003, the last time it changed hands.
The Captain John McGilvery House, built in 1874 and occupied by celebrated Maine artist Waldo Peirce in the mid-20th century, did not sell at a Wednesday auction that attracted just three bidders, according to Mike Miller at Coldwell Banker. The auction stalled when people stopped bidding short of the $199,000 reserve price.
Later this week, however, one of the bidders made another offer that was accepted, Miller said Friday. He would not divulge the final sale price.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful home. If you like old houses, it’s a doozy,” Miller said. “But the market is inversely proportional to the cost of heating oil. The effect of that on a property like this is enormous. We call them dinosaurs. If you have 4,500 square feet of old house with horsehair plaster, you’ve got a problem.”
In fact, the Captain McGilvery House, which most recently was known as the Carriage House Inn, is even larger than that. The sea captain and his shipwrights built the 6,000-square-foot house for $5,000 at a time when the average house in Maine cost $100, former owner and innkeeper Marcia Markwardt told the BDN in an interview in 2008. It features 12-foot ceilings, five fireplaces, original pumpkin pine floors and a large carriage house with a studio apartment.
It was not a bank-ordered auction or a distressed sale, but the building had languished on the market for a year when it was listed at $289,900, and the owner, who has relocated, was eager to sell, according to auction and town officials.
The town of Searsport assesses the land and buildings at nearly $400,000, and annual taxes are nearly $8,000. Between the taxes, the maintenance and the price of heating oil, many prospective buyers might be turned off, Miller said.
Even when it comes to a home that still has murals done by Peirce, and where the painter’s pal, Ernest Hemingway, likely came to visit. And even though the inn is rumored to be haunted, Miller said.
“It was on the haunted house tour, but I was in that house for quite a long time alone, and I didn’t see any apparitions,” he said.
He did see some jaws drop at the auction.
“Everybody’s startled,” he said of the lack of high bids. “One lady said, ‘That’s an $800,000 house!’ Yes, but it’s in Searsport. Sleepy little Searsport, Maine, which is a beautiful town, don’t get me wrong, but [it’s not close to a city.]”
Twenty years ago, old wooden houses in Maine were desirable.
“Everybody wanted to come to Maine for an old cape when heating oil was $1.45 per gallon,” he said. “Now nobody wants to buy an old cape.”