A new lease

By Deborah Holmes, OHW

(Part II of III)

Decades after closing its doors to financial transactions, an old brick bank in Bucksport, Maine, has a new lease on life.

Today the former Bucksport branch of Merrill Trust Company is home to an owner-occupied stained glass shop and studio.

Light streams in through a two-story atrium entrance. The cellar is now a spacious apartment, accessible by two spiral staircases. The upstairs vault, a reminder of the building's origins, stores stained glass supplies for the studio. A new zoned heating system, radiant floor heat, and new double glazed windows keep the building cozy in the frigid Downeast winters.

To owners Doug and Jeanne Robinson, the possibilities for the renovated building are limited only by imagination -- someone else's imagination. The Old Bank is for sale.

Initially envisioning Bucksport as their retirement home, the Robinsons have decided they are not ready for retirement. Not that they ever really retired. Doug traded bi-weekly commutes to a job in Philadelphia for piloting a commercial scalloping boat, serving on local town committees, creating custom stained glass windows and skylights, and teaching glass classes. Jeanne continues to teach part-time and helps manage the store and studio.

If the right buyer comes along, the Robinsons will move closer to their adult children in Maryland. They haven't ruled out rehabilitating another old building or home. In the meantime, they'll enjoy the fruits of their labor, love, and investment in The Old Bank.

The Old House Web last visited Doug and Jeanne back in 2001.

Here's a project update, four years and $300,000 later.

downstairs apartment
Gracefully curving metal stairs lead from the studio to the downstairs apartment. Fanciful purple steps rise through the atrium entrance on the opposite end of the room.


Much work was required to turn the utilitarian cellar into living space, including moving pipes and electrical wiring, installing new windows that conformed to safety codes, and creating two exits from the space. White paint and cabinets help reflect light. On windowless walls, clever use of back-lighting and stained glass exude soft light.
The same space in the beginning, and a year into the project.



Clever use of stained glass gives the illusion of windows to the outside. Antiques like the wire bird cage and mirror with candle sconces add a touch of romance to the bathroom. Doug points out that stained glass should never be placed where it can be bumped and broken. Building codes require that glass in areas of high traffic and use (such as doors) be tempered, or sandwiched between tempered glass.

The clawfoot tub and faucets were scavenged locally. Beadboard of plastic composite has a Victorian feel, but is waterproof.


The master bedroom. Walls throughout the downstairs are brick and stone coated with a stucco plaster, giving a feeling of a cozy French farmhouse.

The proud homeowners -- ready for retirement? Not. Note the sconces on the posts. A bit of Doug's ingenuity: Sconces are inexpensive porch lights turned upside down.

doug and jeanne

The upstairs studio and store. The schoolhouse lights are the real thing -- rescued from the trash pile of a local elementary school. The Robinsons gave a donation to the school in exchange for the lights.


The atrium entrance: Take 2. A sunroom entry built four years ago leaked badly. After several unsuccessful attempts at repair, the Robinsons replaced the sunroom with this two-story atrium.


>>Part I: Have a Safe Sleep!

>> Part III: The Kitchen

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