Newcastle Inn owners plan to stay the course

The new owners and operators of the Newcastle Inn, married couple Liz and Carolyn Cooke, stand by the sign for the River Road establishment. The duo plan to keep the same things for the time being at the beloved bed and breakfast. (photo by Evan Houk)

Newcastle Inn’s new owners, married couple Carolyn and Liz Cooke, have said they plan to stay the course for the time being at the popular River Road Bed and Breakfast.

“It’s such an old building and it’s so beautiful,” Liz Cooke said in an October 18 interview.

The duo moved from South Portland to the owner’s quarters next to the Inn and officially took over on September 30.

They’ve had some sort of fire-test claiming the inn has been pretty much full since they started, in part because of the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest.

There are 14 rooms in the bed and breakfast and six more rooms in the shed, which the owners closed for the winter the week of October 18.

Carolyn and Liz love to cook and have introduced a few new things to the menu. Prior to buying the hostel, Carolyn worked in an Italian market where she baked on a commercial scale, which she said prepared her to feed up to 20 groups of people the hostel can organize into same time.

Some of the newer baked goods are pumpkin bread, blueberry muffins, and baked apples.

“It’s nice to be able to use local things that are in season,” said Liz.

Carolyn and Liz said they enjoy cooking, welcoming people and entertaining, so getting into the hospitality industry seemed like a natural fit.

Liz works as an accountant, but said she lacks the ‘dealing with people’ aspect that has become part of everyday life at the Newcastle Inn.

Liz recounted how a couple who stayed at the inn after taking over went to Camden for a hike and got engaged. She said another couple returned to the Newcastle Inn for their 25th wedding anniversary as it was where they spent their wedding night.

“It’s nice to be a part of it. Because when you make them stay at your hostel, you are part of their experience. It’s kind of wonderful, ”Carolyn said.

Liz said many people have already come just to say hello or tell stories and share memories about the Newcastle Inn.

“Everyone we met in the area, or who passed by, has been super, super nice. I love that sense of community, ”said Liz Cooke.

The Cookes now live in the owner’s quarters next to the inn with their three cats.

Carolyn said that in the future, after settling in, she may decide to open the inn’s restaurant for special events, such as a house pizza party and beer football.

The Cookes said they had been considering buying a bed and breakfast for years, before Carolyn lost her job in August 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and they were catalyzed to start looking for a hostel in earnest. .

Carolyn worked for 13 years in sales for a company that organized life science and biotechnology conferences.

The two found the Newcastle Inn and decided to give it a try for a test drive last May and ended up staying an extra night in a different room, allowing them to experience two different rooms.

They even visited Glidden Point Oyster Farms and fell in love with the area.

A veranda offers views of the Damariscotta River at the Newcastle Inn.  New owners Liz and Carolyn Cooke took over in early October and plan to stay the course at the popular inn.  (photo by Evan Houk)

A veranda offers views of the Damariscotta River at the Newcastle Inn. New owners Liz and Carolyn Cooke took over in early October and plan to stay the course at the popular inn. (photo by Evan Houk)

“Yeah, in May we went on a reconnaissance mission,” Liz said with a laugh.

After telling the previous owner, Julie Bolthuis, that they were interested in purchasing the hostel, they made an offer within 48 hours.

“We loved the area,” said Liz.

Bolthuis, who has run the Newcastle hostel on her own for over 13 years, has trained both people on how the hostel works and is always available for any questions.

“She’s been so helpful,” Carolyn said.

The Newcastle Inn has mostly stayed open year round, but the Cookes said they could take a break from mid-February through March to take vacations, visit family and make some improvements around the property.

Bolthuis said in a telephone interview that she has made extensive renovations to the property during her 13 years as owner and operator. She learned the trade by staying in guesthouses and eventually worked for five and a half years at 1811 House in Manchester, Vermont.

After traveling to Maine for a long weekend in 2007, Bolthuis realized this was where she wanted to be.

“It really solidified things, wanting to be in Maine and on the coast,” Bolthuis said.

She bought the hostel in May 2008 and immediately began upgrading it from oil to propane for the heating system; replacement of roof sections; new propane lines; converting steam radiators to hot water; and little by little, began to update and renovate all the rooms.

Bolthuis said she has decided to put the Newcastle Inn up for sale at the end of the 2019 season.

“I felt the time was right,” she said.

She said last year had been the busiest ever at the hostel, as people sought refuge from the cities and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a house, it feels like home, each room is uniquely decorated,” said Bolthuis.

The Newcastle Inn was originally a three-story ship captain’s house built in 1860, according to Lincoln County News records.

“Opened in 1911, the Newcastle Inn has 15 comfortable rooms, which can be rented for $ 150 a night and up. Room features may include a Jacuzzi, four-poster bed, fireplace, and spectacular views of the Damariscotta River, ”says a September 18, 2003 article.

For more information visit newcastleinn.com or call 563-5685.

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