Bringing a historic gem back to life on the Eastern Promenade
In 1996, entrepreneur Geoff Minte moved to Maine with his wife, Eileen, and their four kids. They were living in New York but after coming to Mount Abram to ski for several years, Maine took hold of them. “The quality of life here was better,” says Geoff. “We loved all the natural resources, the mountains, the lakes, the ocean, the lifestyle. We wanted our kids to grow up with all of that.” The family lived in Yarmouth, and Eileen, a psychologist with a passion for interior design, did many renovations over the years. “She was very good at it with a great sense of color and space,” says Geoff, “and she always got along really well with the builders and architects.”
While renovating their Yarmouth house one year, the couple stayed in an apartment on Portland’s Eastern Promenade. During a walk around the neighborhood one day, they spotted a vacant triple-decker with a corner turret and sweeping views of Casco Bay. The building had seen better days. Built in 1903, it had been known as Ye Longfellow Inn. During World War II, local ship builders and sailors spent nights there between shifts. By the late 1970s the inn had been converted into a number of individual apartments.
After first catching her eye that day, the property stayed in the back of Eileen’s mind. In 2013, their son who was living in Portland noticed it was for sale. The Mintes put in an offer and before they knew it, the building was theirs. “It was such a unique property with spectacular views, but it was in pretty bad shape,” says Geoff. “It was overgrown, the paint was peeling, pigeons had taken over, people were living there illegally. It was going to need a major renovation.”
Geoff and Eileen hired Mark Mueller Architects and Monaghan Woodworks to gut the interior and reconfigure the building as three floors, each its own unit, plus a side unit where the old dining room used to be. The team updated the exterior while preserving its historic character. Colonnaded decks were added and renovated on the second and third stories, as well as an oversized partial wraparound porch at the entry level.
The Mintes had renovated several homes together over the years and were no strangers to the construction process. During the project, however, Eileen passed away unexpectedly, and in the midst of tragedy, Geoff was left with a decision: abandon the house or keep going. After talking it over with his kids, who are also involved in real estate, the family decided to continue where Eileen had left off. “She enjoyed it so much and put her heart into it,” says Geoff.
Even with the help of his family and the design/ build team, Geoff found himself in a place he’d never been before on a renovation. “I suddenly was on my own without an interior designer,” he says. “I needed someone to pull it all together.” After asking a friend for recommendations, he was introduced to interior designer Tracy Davis of Urban Dwellings. “She really knew her stuff and we connected in terms of what needed to be done,” he says. When the shell of the building was complete and the interior framing was in the final stages, Davis started her work to turn the building, which had previously been carved into eight apartment units, into four luxury condominiums. “Our goal was to prepare a package of finishes, fixtures, and lighting that blended in with pre- construction selections,” says Davis.
Geoff decided he would live in the third-floor penthouse and rent or sell the other units. He worked with Davis on a living space where he could live comfortably by himself, but with enough room for his kids, now grown adults, to come and stay with him. As the founder of several marketing and media companies, Geoff also needed a home base where he could conduct business. “We all reach a time in our life when the decisions we make are truly all about the solace of one,” says Davis. “Geoff asked me to create a place that was mindful, meditative, and healing. This residence embraces both the built and natural environment and pairs it with mindful living.” At the top of the building, Geoff enjoys expansive views of the promenade, and beyond it, the bay and its many islands. In the summer, sailboats are sprinkled across the water and people are walking their dogs, flying kites, or reading on the grassy expanse below. Decks extend the living space outdoors, and windows facing the water line the main living area.
Davis incorporated Geoff’s global art collection throughout and created an urban, masculine feel. The condo works just as well when it’s just Geoff as when he has his kids or other visitors staying with him, thanks to two guest bedroom suites.
Like that day when he first laid eyes on the property with Eileen, Geoff finds himself walking the neighborhood a lot. “I walk to Rosemont, Blue Spoon, the Front Room, Silly’s—and it’s an easy walk into the Old Port,” he says. “When you come from New York, you look forward to walking.” Geoff loves that he has everything he needs right at his fingertips, whether it’s the restaurants, Hilltop Superette, or Donatelli’s tailor shop. “It’s a real neighborhood in that way,” he says. “I love going into Donatelli’s and bantering with the family. For me, that’s the old-school neighborhood vibe I love so much.”
This summer, Geoff celebrated his first Fourth of July on Munjoy Hill—an experience to remember. The streets close, the Prom fills with throngs of people, the bay becomes speckled with boats, the Portland Symphony Orchestra performs its Patriotic Pops concert, vendors line the street. After dusk is the main event: fireworks explode over the bay. “I’ve been to a lot of fireworks, but this was unlike anything I’d ever seen,” says Geoff. “The energy was just fantastic. So much tradition and ritual.”
Geoff’s investment has turned a building that was in disrepair into one of Portland’s biggest real estate success stories. In 2015, the second-floor unit sold for $1.7 million, breaking a Portland record for price per square foot: $893.
“Portland has such a vibrance,” he says. “People want to be here.”