Work will continue on Barnard Tavern in Kennebunk. Dan King photo

KENNEBUNK – The Historic Preservation Commission voted 4-1 on Wednesday, Jan. 12, to approve, with conditions, deconstruction and reconstruction of Barnard Tavern.

That means Kari and Randy Gates can proceed with plans to rehabilitate the structure, believed to have been built about 1790. The home has seen several modifications over the years and was damaged by fire in 1975. The building is fragile, said Gates, and is beset with structural issues, according to structural engineers.

“Now we have authorization to proceed,” said Gates on Thursday, Jan, 13. “Now we can finally finish financing, finish the drawings in more detail, and start the permitting process.”

She said there is a lot to do, and she hopes to be able to start in the spring.

Gates said she has applied to the town’s planning department to have the Portland Road Mixed Use Zoning District, which ends nearby, extended to include the property, “so we can make it an inn again, like it was for 200 years,” she said.

When the couple purchased the property, Gates had hoped to create five apartments designed for those 55 and older, but the number allowed under the town’s codes is fewer and so would not be affordable for tenants, she said.


“I never intended to be an innkeeper, but this is a win for the community,” she said of the plan for an inn.

Kari Gates, who bought the Barnard Tavern with her husband, Randy, in February, stands inside the 230-year-old structure in April 2021. The Kennebunk Historic Preservation Commission approved deconstruction and reconstruction of the property. Tammy Wells photo

The property includes an ell and a barn, which date to 1830-40. Gates sought and received permits to make repairs to the barn. She plans an art studio in the space.

Gates fell in love with the old building at 9 Barnard Lane when the couple moved to Kennebunk about four years ago, and learned along the way that she has family connections to one of the owners of the property over its long life.

She is a descendent of the Day family, who owned and operated it as the Old Stage Tavern. The main house was built about 1790 by Joseph Barnard, who bought the land in 1785. He operated it as a tavern, as did his wife after he died. It passed through several hands, and was operated as an inn, a farm and a private home.

The Gates’ bought the property in February 2021, knowing rehabilitation would take a lot of work. But what they did not know was the full extent of the damage caused by fire, time, and renovation decisions made by prior owners.

Following an examination by a structural engineer, Kari Gates applied to the HPC in April for deconstruction and reconstruction, but withdrew after learning of a deed restriction on the property, which had not included in their own deed. A clause in a deed executed in 2016 from the then owner, Jo R. Johnson, trustee of the Johnson Property Trust, to purchaser C & K Realty Corporation, said the buildings could not be torn down without the consent of Johnson and of the town of Kennebunk. Voters in November agreed  3,180- 617 to release the town’s right of enforcement. Gates reapplied for deconstruction and reconstruction.


While it was noted at the Historic Preservation Commission meeting that Johnson’s restriction remains, town attorney Natalie Burns said the board should not take that into consideration, given the town meeting vote.

Gates outlined some of the changes in the property to the commission over the years, including a 1930s bay window, the addition of a clock tower – which contains no mechanism, it was sold at auction some years ago – and more.  The property was slated for demolition  following the 1975 fire when it was purchased by William Johnson, she noted.

“When people walk through the door on opening day, they will be amazed,” said Kari Gates of the rehabilitation slated for Barnard Tavern. Dan King photo

An individual who toured the property told the the commission that the roof has seven layers of asphalt shingles.

The board discussed the matter for about three hours, and crafted conditions that include the Gates’ prepare a deconstruction plan vetted by a specialist or consultant in the industry; that they submit a detailed architectural plan for reconstruction to the Historic Preservation Commission before deconstruction; submit documentation and a photo inventory of the architectural elements that presently exist, and for historical materials to be reincorporated whenever possible.

Commission members Barbara Fleshman, Paul Bevacqua, Judee Jaudreau, and Marie Kyriakides voted in favor; Chair Frances Smith voted against.

Gates said the past 12 months have been difficult.


“It has taken a year of my life, time, energy and money,” she said.

But Gates, who has more than 20 years in the construction industry, said she is also excited about the project.

She thought of the work ahead, and the result: a plan to take what had, over 230 years, become a tired, fragile, ailing, old structure and transform it into a space harkening to the early days, when Joseph Barnard’s vision began.

“When people walk through the door on opening day, they will be amazed,” she said.

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