HARPSWELL, Maine — Once home to cows and livestock, a former dairy barn on Harpswell Neck Road belies a much more glamorous past. The actor Patrick Dempsey once owned the spread and tied the knot here.
Now you can have a McDreamy wedding in this buffed-up 1840s barn and attached farm house on five rolling acres by the sea. Live Well Farm, run by Patty and Scott Ruppert, opened this spring for weddings and celebrations.
“It’s still evolving. We do some community events here,” said Patty Ruppert, a former math teacher who bought the property just over two years ago.
Originally pegged as collaborative space for Harpswell Coastal Academy, the couple soon realized the barn was an ideal expanse to toast life.
“There is a warmth about it and comfort,” said Patty Ruppert, who hired a local restoration crew to get the barn back in shape. “It was very clean with low haylofts on both sides with stairs that went down to the center space.”
But it was interiorly cluttered.
The first thing Lee Jones of Locke-Jones Building and Restoration did was open up the post-and-beam beauty. He took apart the loft on the right, raised the lefthand loft and rebuilt the decking. It’s now a great vantage point to look down on a dance floor, have a cocktail or just chill. Beams were jacked up to allow scores to congregate on the hemlock floors.
“Anything that was good, we kept,” said Jones, who reinforced original posts by tying new wood to old spruce and pine. “The bones were by and large in good shape. It just needed some help.”
Much of the barn is a salvage project. Repurposing is important to Patty Ruppert, who shops The Brimfield Antiques and Collectables Show in Massachusetts and has cleaned up at church sales.
“I don’t want to go buy things,” said Patty Ruppert, who relishes the thrill of the hunt. She rummages for items with history plus style. “I don’t like things to be matchy, matchy.”
From the dark navy barn doors to the modern lighting and vintage votives, she has succeeded. The signature of the barn, a driftwood chandelier overhead, was her creation. “We dragged it back from the beach and hung it with block and tackle,” she said.
Similarly, the railing leading to the loft is a weathered limb found on Popham Beach.
So far 10 couples have married on the farm and a 50th wedding anniversary is coming up for 150 people. Ruppert, who lives down the road, wants newlyweds to be so bowled over they decide to stay here.
“It’s an adorable thing to see people starting out. They have lots of enthusiasm and life. We want the younger generation to find a place in Harpswell.”
Those that marry here find big city trappings, like WiFi for party playlists, a welcome option. But the biggest improvements the couple made were low-tech. Thousands of nails used to built the barn were sticking out here, there and everywhere. “My husband went around and knocked them all back in,” she said.
The barn’s old timey roots are what attracts brides and grooms here. The wholesomeness of the setting, heritage apple trees everywhere and an old bell Patty rings after ceremonies, add to the luster.
“It’s one of those things that’s just a big deep breath,” said Ruppert. “When you go into the outside space there is an ‘ah’ moment that makes everyone feel like they are far from their reality.”
That must have appealed to the good doctor.