SKOWHEGAN — A local construction contractor and his wife submitted the higher of two bids at a public auction Wednesday for a 13-room 1840s mansion on Water Street.

Rick and Laurie Pease, of Malbons Mills Road, paid $130,000 for the home, previously owned by attorney Dale Thistle, who was forced to surrender his license to practice law in 2014 because of a brain injury he suffered in a 2011 automobile crash. Unable to work, Thistle fell behind on the mortgage payments and the bank foreclosed on the property.

“We’re going to restore it,” Rick Pease, 49, said at the close of the bidding. “We want to restore it back to its glory days. I love the idea of restoring the house.”

Pease said his company, PCS Specialty Contracting, specializes in commercial restoration work. The couple have three children, ages 27, 23 and 8.

“I’m shaking — I am blown away,” Laurie Pease, 50, a Skowhegan native, said in the kitchen of the home where the auction took place Wednesday afternoon. “This has been my dream. My grandfather actually used to work for the Pooler sisters who used to live here.”

About two dozen people began assembling inside the house 30 minutes before the auction, which was conducted by Keenan Auctions on behalf of Skowhegan Savings. Several people wrote refundable checks for $10,000 as potential bidders for the house and were given numbered cards to display if they chose to offer a bid.

There were only two bidders — Pease and Rick McMahon, of Sidney, who opened the bidding at $100,000.

McMahon owns three residential homes for mentally challenged adults. He said he would have renovated the house for occupancy if his bid had been successful.

The house is valued by the Skowhegan Assessors Office at $252,800, which is 100 percent of market value, auctioneer Stefan Keenan told the group. A red barn, owned by attorney Greg Domareki, next to the house was not part of the auction, Keenan said. Domareki originally owned the entire lot and buildings, but split it up and sold the house and 1.41 acres to Thistle in 1999.

Keenan, with partner David Reed, each with 30 years experience as auctioneers, cajoled and joked with the crowd, encouraging them to consider one of Skowhegan’s statelier old homes. There was laughing and cordial talk, but the job at hand clearly was all business and big money.

Following McMahon’s initial bid of $100,000, Pease countered with an offer of $125,000. McMahon, who had noted earlier that a nice house “just down the street” was going for $174,000, bumped his bid up to $127,500.

Pease countered with $130,000, and it was all over.

Some of those present Wednesday had attended another auction conducted by Keenan — Dale Thistle’s law offices in downtown Newport. Keenan said the bank bought the place back for $60,000.

Thistle, with his then-wife Sylvia, bought the house in 1999. It was once the home of renowned violinist Mary Elise Fellows White, who lived there in the early 1900s, according to Somerset County real estate records. Research on the book “A Maine Prodigy: The Life and Adventures of Elise Fellows White” was collected in 2010 by her grandson, Dr. Houghton M. White, of Brunswick, based on his discovery of boxes of diaries, photographs and a 1938 autobiography.

Thistle, 69, who had handled several high-visibility criminal cases in the 1990s from his law offices in Newport, suffered a traumatic brain injury Nov. 17, 2011, in a crash on Main Street in Palmyra, he said in a June 2014 interview at his home. He said a woman drove past a stop sign without stopping on Raymond Road and hit him as he drove west toward Skowhegan.

The injury got so bad that Thistle reported himself to the state Board of Overseers of the Bar. That report and other complaints about his work led to Thistle’s indefinite suspension from practice by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in June 2014.

Thistle said he agreed with the suspension. He said persistent seizures, mini-blackouts and a lack of direction painted a picture of what he could do and what he no longer could do following damage to the nerves in his right frontal lobe. He since has moved to Quebec City, his son Eric Thistle, a southern Maine lawyer, said this week.

In September 2015, Thistle sought treatment based on research to improve his brain plasticity, or the ability to alter pathways and junctions of the brain and nervous system to form new ones and eliminate or modify the old ones.

That research, along with mental exercises and the use of a special set of prism glasses, corrective lenses called “brain glasses,” and treatment in Chicago by a cognitive specialist and an optometrist who focuses on neuro-optometric rehabilitation, brought Thistle and his family new hope.

Eric Thistle said his father continues to show signs of improvement, but he has not sought to get his certification to practice law in Maine reinstated.

The house at 400 Water St. in Skowhegan had been for sale for a long time. Thistle had lived there for a time with his aging mother.

Jennifer Olsen, the former executive director at Main Street Skowhegan, now an artist and baker, whose home on Cardinal Street abuts the Water Street home, said she was thrilled that a family had purchased the home. There had been a bid to buy the house in October 2011 — a month before Thistle’s accident. Kennebec Behavioral Health wanted to buy the home for offices and daytime outpatient care, but it later withdrew the offer and moved to a new location on Waterville Road, which is also U.S. Route 201.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Olsen said after the sale. “I think it staying as a family home is great for the neighborhood, and I’m happy to see it. It’s such an important property for the whole community and it’s a local family, and we’re so happy about it. It’s great.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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