June 20, 2018
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Boatmaker’s new lease helps save historic Maine island store

Bill Trotter | BDN
Bill Trotter | BDN
In this 2011 file photo, Colin Harrison (at rear), and Patrick Mocarsky work on an unfinished skiff at Islesford Boatworks on Little Cranberry Island. Counter-clockwise standing next to the boat are Simon Harrison, student Desi Sinnott, and IBW instructor Tony Archino. Islesford Boatworks will lease the historic Blue Duck Ships Store from the National Park Service for programs starting this summer
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

Acadia National Park will preserve a 168-year-old building on Little Cranberry Island by leasing it to an nonprofit boatmaker.

Islesford Boatworks will lease the historic Blue Duck Ships Store from the National Park Service for programs starting this summer. No opening date is set, Acadia spokeswoman Christie Anastasia said.

Park service officials have been working for more than a year to preserve the building, which is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. They requested proposals for saving the building and chose Islesford. The building, and adjoining Islesford Historical Museum, reflect Maine maritime history of the 1800s.

The pairing of park service and hands-on boatmaker will help both parties, park Superintendent Kevin Schneider said in a statement.

“We will improve the condition of this historic building, restore a connection to the waterfront for the Islesford community and benefit kids and adults who participate in Boatworks’ programs,” Schneider said.

As part of the deal, the boatmaker will improve the building while preserving its historic character.

“Personally, I think it’s really cool that a nonprofit that builds boats is going to be moving in there,” Anastasia said. “When you get off the boat [onto the island], you will really see maritime history come to life.”

Boatworks representatives did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment.

The Blue Duck building has a colorful history. Edwin Hadlock, a local entrepreneur, built the large, plain structure in about 1850. He and his sons Gilbert and William used it as a ships’ store for at least 25 years, according to a park service history.

The building became a general store in about 1875. Dr. William Otis Sawtelle, a college professor, purchased the building circa 1918. He named it the Blue Duck after discovering many duck decoys stored there and painting them Prussian blue and scattering them around the property.

Sawtelle formed the Islesford Historical Society and used the Blue Duck to exhibit historical objects and memorabilia. By 1927, under Sawtelle’s leadership, friends of the Society helped build the museum. Both became part of Acadia in 1948, according to the history.

The Boatworks will use the Blue Duck to demonstrate and teach traditional boatbuilding techniques to the island community and summer visitors, Anastasia said.

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