A historic Maine island once touted as a pandemic-free retreat for the wealthy has been sold
PORTLAND, Maine — Half of a historic Casco Bay island once offered as a COVID-free luxury vacation destination for the rich and famous during the height of the 2020 pandemic has been sold.
Prentice Hospitality Group bought the north end of House Island, which once housed a quarantined immigration processing center, for $5.35 million last week, according to the realtor who completed 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 foster groups,” Taylor said.
Prentice, the driving force behind several new waterfront and restaurant developments in Portland, intends to lease the House Island property for weddings, clambakes, corporate retreats and other events.
The group currently owns and operates several properties in southern Maine, including the Chebeague Island Inn, Portland-based catering company 58 Culinary, EVO Kitchen + Bar, Marina Bar, Maine Classic Car Museum in Arundel and Twelve, a restaurant which should open this summer on Thames Street in Portland.
Prentice is also managing partner of Foreside Development, which is developing land along the eastern waterfront and owns Fore Points Marina, just a five-minute boat ride from House Island.
The group is named after its president, Casey Prentice.
“At the end of the day, the game 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 out as a luxury wedding and event venue. But when COVID-19 started raging a few months later, he started pitching 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 historic piece of island boasts 3,980 feet of usable ocean frontage, five sandy beaches. and a 375-foot-long commercial-grade jetty.
“You can hop on a jet from New York or DC, land in Portland, and arrive on the island with your first cocktail in hand in less than two hours,” the website reads. “New Yorkers can get to House Island faster than they can get to the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.”
Gordon has even teamed up with Dylan Eckardt, real estate agent with upmarket Hamptons-based Nest Seekers, to try to market the island.
Vanity Fair magazine called Eckardt “the stars’ party animal and real estate agent” in addition to “the man who ate Montauk” for his aggressive, upscale marketing of the once working-class town.
“This fucking place is awesome,” Eckardt said in 2020 of House Island. “There is nothing like it on the east coast, in the northern hemisphere. You can do whatever you want to do. I don’t care if you want to bring the fucking Rolling Stones and rock there.
In the end, Gordon found no takers.
House Island is believed to have been first occupied by European settlers in 1623. The north end was the site of the town’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 arriving in New England. During its 30 years of operation – including during the 1918 flu pandemic – its quarantine facility served as an alternative to the heavily used facilities in Boston and New York.
The larger 16-acre plot at the southern end of the island includes historic Fort Scammell.
In 2015, Portland designated the entire island as a Local Historic District due to the fort on the south end and the north’s connection to immigration.