Historic Edwardian cottage has share of illustrious owners

Camden's Fox Hill changes hands, its future under consideration

Mon, 06/03/2013 - 3:30pm

Story Location:
235 Bay View Street
Camden  Maine  04843
United States

    CAMDEN — Fox Hill, the historic and high-profile Camden estate at 235 Bay View St., has been sold, from one limited liability company to another limited liability company. The sale took place May 30, when the property, listed at $4.9 million, quietly changed hands for $2.7 million in an attorney's office on Washington Street.

    The new owners of the 12-acre estate are a group of unidentified investors known collectively as Fox Hill Real Estate LLC. What they plan to do with the historic cottage has yet to be determined, according to Camden attorney Paul Gibbons, who represents them.

    Related stories:

    McLean Hospital looks to Camden's Fox Hill for alcohol, drug rehab center

    Camden's Fox Hill rehab deal nixed by landowner, buyer mystified

    "There are several options under consideration, but no commitments have been made," he said.

    The property, one mile from downtown Camden and Rockport Village, is anchored by a 16,000-square-foot, 10-bedroom house that sits on the east side of a slight hill overlooking Penobscot Bay. While the land is not on the shore, it is extensively developed and landscaped. Besides the large original cottage, there are three guest cottages with room for 32 guests.

    The estate includes a swimming pool, activities building with arcade games, billiards and ping-pong rooms, a 1950s-style diner, and a four-lane bowling alley.

    Built in 1903 and formerly referred to as the Borden Cottage, it was extensively expanded in the 1990s by former MBNA credit card bank president Charles Cawley and his wife, Julie.

    It was subsequently sold to Matthew Simmons, who had envisioned the property in 2010 as a conference center for his Ocean Energy Institute. A community outcry ensued and the project was halted. Simmons died that summer, and in 2012, the compound was listed on the market for $5.5 million. The price was dropped, and was most recently listed with Legacy Properties for $4.9 million, with the owner as Fox Hill Investments LLC.

    Last winter, there was a sudden initiative to purchase the estate and convert it to a high-end inhouse alcohol and substance abuse rehabilitation facility for up to 11 clients. McLean Hospital, associated with Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, was involved with Lincolnville summer resident H. Thompson Rodman in the effort.

    As the idea gained traction and became public, meetings were held with neighbors and Camden residents crowded in to hear what the proposal entailed. Ultimately, town voters would have had the final say, either approving or denying a necessary zoning amendment to allow the facility to develop.

    But on March 5, the deal fell through for undisclosed reasons.

    On March 5, Rodman said he had been at Fox Hill the previous weekend talking with engineers, and the real estate broker. All was going well, said Rodman, and both parties were aware of the progress of the real estate transaction. But by 6 p.m. Monday evening, March 4, the tide suddenly shifted and Rodman was told that the option he was proposing "would be an impediment to our ability to sell the property over the summer," said Rodman.

    On May 30, Ellen Simmons, widow of Matthew Simmons and president of Fox Hill LLC, signed over the deed to Fox Hill Real Estate LLC (F.H.R.E.), whose fund manager is Meril Halpern, of North Salem, N.Y., and Rockport.

    Read more about the cottage's history in Portland Monthly Magazine, Winterguide 2012 


    Editorial Director Lynda Clancy can be reached at lyndaclancy@penbaypilot.com; 706-6657.