GARDINER — The old church on Lincoln Avenue has served several purposes during the last century.
It was built in 1905 as a Christian Science church — the first in Maine. Then Gardiner Community Church occupied it after a decade of vacancy.
It later became a center for mentally disabled adults before being converted to apartments in the 1980s.
Now, its new owner plans on opening Gardiner’s first bed and breakfast in the historic building. And its look still very much reflects its religious beginnings.
“When I saw this place, I really just fell in love with it,” said Shawn Dolley, who purchased the building for $42,500 earlier this year.
Dolley, 41, plans on opening two rooms by late summer and the other four sometime later, likely after securing more funding. He also plans on renting out the two apartment units located in the rear of the building this year.
He plans on calling the bed and breakfast The Stone Turret. “It becomes sort of the signpost,” he said of the building’s tower.
This will be Dolley’s first venture in the hospitality business. He previously worked for global architecture firms, which brought him to Honolulu and Hong Kong. He grew up in Windsor and returned to Maine last year.
Dolley is living in the upstairs unit at the front of the building and plans on running the B&B once it opens.
He said he originally planned on opening a restaurant in Portland, but he decided it wasn’t worth the risk after completing the business plan.
The bed and breakfast will give him a chance to try out some culinary and marketing ideas he had for the restaurant, Dolley said.
A Kennebec Journal article about the completion of the building in 1905 lauded its appearance, stating that “no one who passes it can fail to be most pleasantly impressed with the simplicity and beauty of its architectural design.”
Now passersby will notice the blue tarps covering the turret’s breached roof and the scaffolding reaching up its walls. The dark brown shingles on the top half of the building’s face have been replaced with beige vinyl siding.
The stonework on the bottom half still remains, and Dolley plans on eventually replacing the siding with a darker, fiber cement siding to mimic the original shingle work.
The inside looks very much like a work in progress as well, but there are many original design elements, like pressed-tin ceilings and walls, ornate woodwork and stained-glass windows with religious scenes.
The two bed and breakfast units Dolley plans on opening first have formidable 10-feet-tall stained-glass windows covering most of their outside walls.
“I’m hoping once we have the B&B full and the lights on, it’s just a beautiful scene at night,” Dolley said.
The front lobby of the establishment will also serve as a museum about the history of the building and Gardiner.
Paul Koenig — 621-5663