FREEPORT -Trustees of the University of Maine System were scheduled Monday to consider a request from the University of Southern Maine to sell the historic Stone House, located at 246 Wolfe’s Neck Road in Freeport.

USM announced the intended sale on June 23, but learned later in the week that the Wolfe’s Neck Farm Foundation reserves the right to sell it, according to the 1985 document that conveyed the house to USM. The late Eleanor Houston Smith bequeathed it to the university in 1980. Renowned Maine architect John Calvin Stevens designed the building in 1917.

Bob Caswell, director of communications for USM, said Sunday that the first step to receive authorization to explore selling the property would be Monday’s meeting with the trustees.

“We would then be working closely with the Wolfe’s Neck Farm Foundation to find a new owner,” Caswell said.

The meeting was held after the Tri-Town Weekly’s deadline.

David Herring, executive director for Wolfe’s Neck Farm, said Monday that according to the language in the original gift document from 1985 that transferred the Stone House and the farm to USM, “if at any time in the future the operation of the Main House (aka Stone House) as a conference center and retreat can’t be continued, the Board of Directors of the Wolfe’s Neck Farm Foundation shall direct the appropriate disposition of the Main House (including a sale to private owners as one possible disposition) consistent with this agreement.”

“Given that USM is no longer using the Stone House as a conference center or retreat, we are working closely with USM to honor the original gift agreement and, at the same time, help to identify future uses that will help preserve this historic structure,” Herring said.

The Stone House is used for USM’s Stonecoast Creative Writing program, and would continue in that capacity until at least January, Caswell said.

Recent estimates for required maintenance and infrastructure improvements at the Stone House come to $8.5 million, according to USM. Given those costs and the fact that it is open just 40 days a year, it no longer makes financial sense for USM to own the property, the university said in a press release.

Theodora J. Kalikow, USM president, said that the decision to seek the sale of the Stone House should not affect the integrity of the programs offered.

“The Stone House will remain available for use through January of 2015. We will begin working immediately with the Stonecoast MFA and the other programs to secure new sites by taking advantage of the coast of Maine and our campuses in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn,” Kalikow said in the release.

The property consists of the 10,000 square-foot Stone House on a 4-acre lot with deeded water views of the Harraseeket River and Casco Bay. It is used by 250 people enrolled in the Stonecoast master’s degree program in creative writing, in the Stonecoast Writers’ Conference and a summer program.

“We continue to be deeply appreciative of this gift but the university cannot allocate funds to maintain the property’s basic needs and keep the facility open for the short periods of scheduled workshops and conferences. The millions of dollars required at this time are simply not available. What funding we can secure must go into our core mission of teaching, community engagement and research,” Kalikow said. “We were fortunate to have the use of the Stone House for so many years because of the vision and legacy of Eleanor Houston Smith and the Smith family.”

The 10,000-square-foot Stone House sits on a 4-acre lot with deeded water views of the Harraseeket River and Casco Bay. 


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