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Featured In Mainebiz: NH Couple With Hospitality Background Buy One Of Maine's Oldest Inns

Written By:  Laurie Schreiber

COURTESY / SWAN AGENCY REAL ESTATE The Waldo Emerson Inn in Kennebunk dates back to 1753.

A historic Kennebunk inn built by the great-uncle of famed essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson sold to a New Hampshire couple with a background in the hospitality and construction industries.

Amelia and Ron Rockelein bought the Waldo Emerson Inn, at 108 Summer St., from Hana Pevny for an undisclosed price.

The list price was $1.95 million.

Dana Moos and Diane Pace of Swan Agency Real Estate brokered the deal.

For Pevny, who owned the property since 2017, it was the right time to sell, providing more time to travel and to be with aging parents, said Moos.

The property was on the market about six months and attracted quite a bit of interest with numbers showings, she said.

Ralph Waldo connection

Built in 1753, the inn has a Dutch gambrel roof, six guest rooms, four with fireplaces, and a “keeping room,” a room directly off the kitchen typical in Colonial era homes. There are two parlors and historical features such as hand-painted Wedgewood tiles on the parlor fireplace and exposed beams. 

“Dutch gambrel” refers to a two-sided roof with two slopes to each side.

The inn has a distinctive Dutch gambrel roof – a two-sided roof with two slopes to each side.

The original structure was constructed by Waldo Emerson, a local merchant and the great-uncle to the noted author and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, who is thought to have spent 10 summers at the house, according to the inn’s website. 

The house was later inherited by Waldo Emerson’s son-in-law Theodore Lyman, who had an addition built in 1784 as a wedding gift for his wife. 

The inn was a stop along the Underground Railroad, according to the website.

ROBS financing

The Rockeleins live in Rye, N.H. They met while working at a Hilton Hotel in Santa Fe, N.M. Amelia has a food and beverage background and currently works for a construction company. Ron has a background in the hospitality industry in management and now as vice president of operations for a New Hampshire hospitality company.

Hand-painted Wedgewood tiles on the parlor fireplace are among the inn’s historical features.

In the last few years, as they approached retirement age, they began considering their next act, Amelia Rockelein said.

“We looked at a lot of different inns between New Hampshire and Maine,” she said. “We wanted to stay in this area.”

When they came across the Waldo Emerson Inn, they decided it would work for them from the perspective of owning a turnkey historic property and from the profitability standpoint.

While the previous owner typically closed the inn for a few months each winter, the Rockeleins will look into running it year-round.

They financed the deal through a funding vehicle called “rollover for business startups,” or ROBS, which allows investors with 401(k) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts to use the funds to buy a business and pay for startup costs. 

They will likely invest in some updates.

“When you’re able to take over a business and just continue on without have to do major renovations, this one, of all the ones we looked at, for sure we were able to do,” she said.

For now, Ron will keep his full-time job in New Hampshire while Amelia handles as the inn’s operations. They have living quarters on the third floor of the main house.

“It just needs a little paint,” she said. “We’ll work on it over the winter.”


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