BIDDEFORD — Ben Nacar stood alone in the kitchen of the Timber Point cottage, gazing out a window at the ocean and leaning on a counter where, for generations, his family cooked dinner.
It was the first time Nacar, 24, had been inside the house since his family sold the 97-acre Timber Point peninsula and a 13-acre island in 2011. The land in coastal Biddeford is now part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.
The 14-bedroom cottage, built around 1930 by the master architect Charles Ewing, was open to the public for the first time Tuesday, the first step in what refuge officials say will be a long process to decide what to do with the buildings on the property.
“It’s really strange,” Nacar said of being back in his family’s former summer cottage. “This place holds a lot of happy memories. Part of me is kind of sad I can’t have it back, but more than that I’d like to see it used in a way to let other people enjoy it.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bought the property with a $3 million appropriation from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and more than $2 million raised by The Trust for Public Land, the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust and the Friends of Rachel Carson.
Karrie Schwaab, the refuge’s assistant manager, said no decision has been made about what to do with the cottage and several outbuildings, and “no idea is off the table.”
The refuge will host two public meetings Thursday to solicit ideas about what to do with the cottage, one of the few built in the area during the Great Depression. Schwaab said an assessment showed that the building is in good condition, though it needs some repairs.
The refuge also will do an environmental assessment of the property before it decides what to do with the buildings. A decision is expected by December 2014.
A group of residents is pushing the concept of the Timber Point Center. Josephine Power, a caretaker for the nearby farmhouse that’s still owned by the Ewing family, said the concept is to create a nonprofit center that would save the historic building and become an asset to the refuge and the community.
“It would be a unique setting and base for focused, creative, contemplative type work for groups who are working to better the community,” Power said.
Suzie Ewing Nacar, granddaughter of Charles Ewing, said she supports the idea of the Timber Point Center because she would like to see the cottage preserved.
The cottage is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and was named to Maine Preservation’s 2011 list of most endangered historic resources.
“It’s definitely worth exploring,” said Suzie Ewing Nacar of the Timber Point Center concept. “Right now it seems like the only viable option.”
But some neighbors of Timber Point who supported conserving the property want it left alone, even if that means letting the cottage and outbuildings deteriorate.
“This is a wildlife refuge. To me, that’s a place for nature and not for people,” said Ann Putney of Biddeford.
Charlie Moody, the closest neighbor to Timber Point, also opposes the Timber Point Center concept.
“It’s too nice to spoil,” he said. “The house should come down and things should be left alone.”
More than 100 people walked through the empty house Tuesday evening, some aiming flashlights into closets and marveling at the intricate wood details and brick fireplaces.
Some visitors sat on the moss-covered rock wall that borders the lawn, watching as people poked their heads out through open windows to get a better view of the ocean.
Carol King of Biddeford went on the tour because she supported the conservation effort and was curious to see the interior of the cottage. She was especially impressed by the wood-lined walls and ceilings and the sweeping views of the ocean from the large bay windows.
“It would be a shame to let it fall down, but other people say let it go back to nature,” she said.
Ben Nacar, whose great-grandfather built the cottage, said he feels it would be a shame to let it deteriorate.
“I know I’m biased, but I think it’s the most beautiful house I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It’s not big and grand, but it has a charm to it I’ve seen in very few houses.”
Thursday’s meetings on the future of the buildings will run from 1 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, at 57 Gravelly Brook Road in Kennebunkport.
Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: