The Travis Mills Foundation bought the former Elizabeth Arden estate in Mount Vernon and Rome Friday with plans to turn it into a retreat for disabled and wounded veterans and their families.

Staff Sgt. Travis Mills founded the organization in 2013 to help other wounded veterans after losing both his arms and legs to an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2012. Since 2013, the organization has been working toward the goal of opening a fully accessible recreation camp in Maine for combat-wounded veterans from all over the country and their families.

Mills’ foundation first held a week-long stay for veterans at Camp Kennebec in Belgrade in August 2013, but plans to eventually purchase that property fell through, Mills said.

The organization plans to launch a national campaign Tuesday to raise the money needed to renovate the newly purchased property, Mills said.

There isn’t a set date for when the camp may open, but the organization will release more details about the plan next week, he said.

“We’re definitely excited,” said Mills, who moved into a “smart home” in Manchester with his wife and daughter last fall. The home, designed to make Mills as independent as possible, was a gift from a foundation established by actor Gary Sinise and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, named in honor of a New York City firefighter who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Mills said the goal of the camp will allow veterans to experience outdoor activities with their families and “not think that they have to stay inside.”

Chris Vallee of RE/MAX Capital/Chris Vallee Associates sold the 17-acre property in Mount Vernon and Rome to the foundation for an undisclosed amount.

Elizabeth Arden, the Canadian cosmetics mogul, built a summer house on the property in the 1920s before establishing the Maine Chance Spa. The spa was operated between 1934 to 1970 and once consisted of 1,200 acres.

After the spa closed in 1970, a couple bought the property, and their son, Stefan Tufano, announced last year he was selling it. The property, which includes a main house, stables, other buildings and a lake front parcel across Castle Island Road, was listed for $765,000.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig


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