The family behind Portland’s Union Wharf is putting the historic pier on the market after more than 160 years of stewardship, citing estate planning and the need to provide for future generations.

Built in 1793, Union Wharf is the oldest in Portland, and has welcomed clipper ships, coal steamers and locomotives through the centuries, according to NAI The Dunham Group, the Poole family’s real estate broker.

The decision to sell did not come easily for Charlie Poole, who keeps a quill-and-ink copy of the 1793 charter of Proprietors of Union Wharf, where he serves as president and “wharfinger” – or wharf-keeper.

“Somebody wrote to me recently, saying, ‘It must be bittersweet’ (to sell the wharf), and I’m not sure ‘sweet’ is the right word,” Poole, 67, said in an interview Sunday. But, he added, “We’re at a point in time where we need to acknowledge that, in order to be fair to all, this is something we have to do.”

Shares of the Union Wharf business are being spread ever more thinly across the growing Poole family, forcing its members to think about providing for the next generations. But they hope to make sure that any buyer is like-minded in terms of keeping the working wharf in place.

It’s the first time Union Wharf has been put up for sale in its history.

The wharf’s 4.3 acres on Commercial Street are primarily devoted to waterfront businesses, including fishermen, seafood and bait dealers and an oil spill response company. Toward Commercial Street are Sapporo Restaurant and a caterer called The Black Tie Co. The property also has commercial office space, currently occupied by financial firms, a real estate broker and architects, among others.

The current owners hope to keep these tenants in place.

“This is not a redevelopment opportunity,” Chris Craig of the Dunham Group said in an email. “The wharf is and will continue to be an important part of the marine industry in Portland and the current owners, city and community want to keep it that way. We have had a lot of interest since it is so iconic and it has been immaculately maintained over the years by the current owners.”

“We’ve been proud to be stewards of a piece of property that’s right smack dab in the middle of the working waterfront,” Poole said. “In my time and my dad’s time and before, it’s always been a part of the working waterfront.”

The property for sale does not include 250 Commercial St., which houses Liquid Riot Bottling Co., nor does it include 5 Widgery Wharf, whose tenants are F.L. Putnam Investment Management Co. and NBT Bank. Both are adjacent properties owned by the Pooles, but will not factor into the sale.

The Poole family became associated with the wharf in 1858, according to a brochure from their broker. They intermarried with the family of W.H. Shurtleff of W.H. Shurtleff Salt Co., which operated from the pier, and for decades managed the business as part-owners.

In the 1950s, Charlie Poole said, his family became sole owners. Charlie’s father and uncle, Parker Poole Jr. and William Poole, ran the wharf for years before bringing in Charlie in 1983. Charlie’s brother Malcolm also helps run the business today.

“It is often remarked that Union Wharf, under his management, was the best repaired and operated wharf, private or public, on the Portland Waterfront,” Parker Poole’s 2008 obituary said.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century the Pooles prided themselves on supporting waterfront operations, “providing for the commercial needs of Portland fishermen, seafood processors, and waterfront businesses,” the obituary said.

In 2017, a $1.8 million investment helped rebuild the southwest corner of the pier, according to the broker’s brochure, which also gives a 2019 net operating income of $1.15 million for the property.

The deadline for bids is March 31.


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