An marketing photo shows the north end of the privately-owned House Island in Casco Bay which is now being marketed as a coronavirus-free getaway for wealthy New Yorkers and residents of Washington, D.C. Credit: Courtesy of House Island

PORTLAND, Maine — Half of a historic island in Casco Bay once offered as a COVID-free luxury vacation destination for the rich and famous during the height of the 2020 pandemic has been sold.

A company affiliated with Prentice Hospitality Group bought the northern end of House Island, once home to a quarantine immigration processing facility, for $5.35 million last week according to the real estate agent who did the deal, Beth Taylor of Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty.

Prentice Hospitality Group bought the northern end of House Island, once home to a quarantine immigration processing facility, for $5.35 million last week according to the real estate agent who did the deal, Beth Taylor of Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty.

“There was strong interest from several large families looking for a private retreat, as well as in-state and out-of-state hospitality groups,” Taylor said.

Prentice, the driving force behind several new waterfront and restaurant developments in Portland, intends to rent the House Island property out for weddings, clambakes, corporate retreats and other events.

The group currently owns and operates several southern Maine properties including the Chebeague Island Inn, Portland-based catering company 58 Culinary, EVO Kitchen + Bar, the Marina Bar, the Maine Classic Car Museum in Arundel, and Twelve, a restaurant slated to open this summer on Thames Street in Portland.

Prentice is also involved with Foreside Development, which developed Fore Points Marina, just a five-minute boat ride from House Island.

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The group is named for its president, Casey Prentice.

“Ultimately, the match with Prentice and his team was perfect,” Taylor said.

The previous owner was Portland entrepreneur Noah Gordon, who bought the 12-acre parcel on the north end of House Island in November 2019 for $4.5 million. He hoped to rent it as a luxury wedding and events venue. But when the COVID-19 began raging a few months later, he began offering it as a high-priced COVID-free playground for anyone who could afford it.

The weekly rental price was $250,000 per week, plus expenses.

The chunk of historic island boasts 3,980 feet of usable ocean frontage, five sandy beaches. and a 375-foot long, commercial-grade pier.

“You can be wheels up on a jet out of New York or D.C., land in Portland and arrive on island with your first cocktail in hand in less than two hours,” read the website pitch. “New Yorkers can get to House Island faster than they can get to the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.”

Gordon even teamed up with hotshot Hamptons-based real estate agent Dylan Eckardt of the upscale boutique agency Nest Seekers to try and market the island.

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Vanity Fair magazine has called Eckardt a “party boy, and real-estate agent to the stars” in addition to “the man who ate Montauk” for his aggressive, high-end marketing of the once blue-collar town.

“That f—-ing place is rad,” Eckardt said in 2020 of House Island. “There’s nothing like it on the east coast, in the northern hemisphere. You can do what you want to do. I don’t care if you want to bring the f—-ing Rolling Stones and rock out there.”

Ultimately, Gordon found zero takers.

It’s believed House Island was first occupied by European settlers in 1623. The north end was the site of the city’s inspection and quarantine station between 1907 and 1937. Known as the “Ellis Island of the North,” it was the main port of entry for European immigrants coming to New England. During its 30 years in operation — including during the influenza pandemic of 1918 — its quarantine facility served as an alternative to the heavily used facilities in Boston and New York.

The larger, 16-acre parcel on the south end of the island includes historic Fort Scammell.

In 2015, Portland designated the entire island a local historic district because of the fort at the south end and the north’s connection to immigration.


Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.