The Bowdoin Orient editors became aware of the impact of Lemont Hall Road in April 1871, only a year after it was built. As one reporter wrote, “Nothing done in Brunswick for many years has been so fruitful of the benefit to the city, and to the pleasure of the students, as the erection of Lemont Hall.”
Sadly, the floors above the building’s main floor had been dormant for more than 30 years, until a young man with an entrepreneurial vision and a young woman with an artist’s eye entered the picture.
Aaron Turkle, 37, has admitted he was a troublemaker as a youngster growing up in Freeport. He found that Brunswick was more in keeping with his independent nature. “That was my haunt. I had my first beer at Joshua’s. I bought my first CD at Bull Moose. So, to me, that angle meant a lot.”
Aaron went to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he studied business and utilized his entrepreneurial talents by producing events. After graduating, he went to Boston where he found early success in the new field of digital marketing. He then headed to Los Angeles where he provided digital marketing consulting services and also worked in real estate.
While living in California, Aaron met Cleo Vauban, his current life and business partner. Combining his sense of the real estate market with her savvy talent for design, the couple began buying, renovating, and flipping properties. They also purchased a house in Harpswell and divided their time between the two coasts.
Then serendipity struck when they learned that Lemont Block was on the market. Intrigued by the prospect of renovating an old historic building, they scrap a real estate deal they made in California and take the plunge.
Aaron will be the first to admit that the couple didn’t really know what they were getting into, such as the strict regulations on renovating a historic building and the uncertain path to financial backing, since there are no similar buildings on the market.
On the brighter side, they discover that many local citizens are happy to bring the Lemont Block back to life. “In L.A., developers are seen as the bad guys; here we were seen as good people, as historic preservationists.”
Aaron credits Claire Knox who had the foresight to include downtown Brunswick on the National Register of Historic Places and thus qualify the project to receive financial exemptions; Architect Nancy Barba of Barba Wheelock, an expert in architectural preservation, to help preserve the project’s historic integrity; and Peter Warren of Warren Construction Group, the main contractor.
In order to save on construction costs, Aaron and Cleo invested hundreds of hours of their time and labor. Lemont’s block sure was a labor of love with equal emphasis on both words.
The Block’s first floor tenants include Grandpa’s Garden, Main Street. Steak & Oyster and Lemon Block, an artists’ collective run by Turkel and Vauban. The second floor features the gorgeous Lemont Ballroom, which the couple hopes to rent for weddings, reunions, and other large gatherings. The upper floors consist of five apartments.
Tina and I had the pleasure of attending the official celebration of the Downtown Brunswick Association-sponsored renovation project on October 20th. Excited townspeople crowded into the great hall to learn about the project, while enjoying good food and lively music.
As a Brunswick citizen, I am proud that our town enthusiastically supported such an ambitious project. It is clear that preserving our history remains an important part of our culture. And I’m grateful for guys like Aaron and Cleo who had the courage to say to themselves, “Let’s do this!”
For more information, visit lemontblock.com.
Brunswick writer David Treadwell welcomes comments and suggestions for future Just a Little Old columns. [email protected]
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