The Summit executive retreat at Point Lookout Resort and Conference Center in Northport (Photo Courtesy of Point Lookout)
The Summit executive retreat at Point Lookout Resort and Conference Center in Northport (Photo Courtesy of Point Lookout)
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On September 20, as students around the globe were walking out of classrooms to protest the inaction of adults on climate change, David and Tami Hirschfeld were getting proactive about their real estate, summoning the region’s reporters with the promise of an announcement about “the future of Point Lookout.”

The Hirschfelds bought the 387-acre Northport resort and conference center in March and, in June, announced that it would close at the end of the year. David Hirschfeld on Friday said that pronouncement was “premature,” but then, they didn’t really buy the property to get into the resort business, at least not directly.

The couple, most recently of Choteau, Montana, had hoped to bring their family together on a growing ranch there but opted to shift the plan to Maine, where they’ve had a second home for 13 years. The weather would be less severe, they knew, and their two adult children already lived and worked here. From past visits, they were familiar with Point Lookout.

“We’d been going up there for years, and it’s got a charm and beauty that we think is unparalleled,” Hirschfeld said.

The couple bought the property under the name Deep Creek Grazing Association, an entity created for, and inspired by, their Montana ranch. Mainebiz reported a sale price of $7.2 million, or about a half-million less than the last time it changed hands.

Asked how one comes by that kind of money, Hirschfeld credited his career as an attorney along with the recent sale of a portion of the Montana land — buying Point Lookout allowed Deep Creek Grazing to avoid paying capital gains taxes, he said. The property also had more than enough space for the family compound they hope to build, starting with the 18,000-square-foot executive retreat at the top of the mountain, which Hirschfeld said they plan to renovate as a home.

“We thought we would live on the property and raise apples and blueberries and maple syrup and pumpkins and lavender and do different things we like with the land, while at the same time run the resort down below,” he said.

Most of the resort, which was built by MBNA in the 1990s, is far below The Summit, as the building at the top of the mountain is known. The working portion consists of a maze of woodsy drives and sturdy buildings that recall the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps. An incomplete list includes a conference center, gymnasium, athletic fields, a bowling alley, a farm, a cafe and 106 cabins.

The Hirschfelds’ vision of the mountain, viewed from above, could be a physical model of the current social order: landowners occupying the summit and pristine upper half of the mountain; renters, businesspeople and wage workers hustling in the crowded lower elevations; and a stream of consumers — of weddings, roller derby, business meetings and bowling birthday parties — drawn up from Route 1.

“The next obvious question is, Why didn’t you do that?” Hirschfeld continued, now cross-examining himself. “The answer to that question is, we were scared with the numbers we were presented with by our advisors.” The couple announced the resort was closing but changed course, they said, after hearing from the community that the complex is worth keeping open.

Friday’s flurry of meetings was a public debut for the Hirschfelds, who, previously, had been known to the larger community only by name. A day later, photos of them appeared on various local news websites. In person they are gracious and give an impression of being genuine and thoughtful. When they met with The Free Press at Dot’s in Lincolnville, they were joined by their daughter, son and daughter-in-law. The family is forwardly Christian, and for lack of much other information about them, a rumor materialized that they were part of a cult — they have no idea where that originated. “We offered the invitation to the crew up there (at Point Lookout), if they want to join our cult, they’re more than welcome to,” David Hirschfeld joked. “Bring a rattlesnake and 50 bucks and you’re in. We’ll get you on the mothership.” Their publicist, who was sitting at the table, guessed that the rumor was an attempt to fill the void as the public waited to learn more about the new owners of Point Lookout. The former owner, athenahealth, by contrast, has a large office complex in Belfast, and a 2014 Fortune article that included a description of former CEO Jonathan Bush barreling around Point Lookout on an ATV en route to the “afterparty cabin” at least partly answered the question of what the company did at the resort.

As of September 20, “the future of Point Lookout” was not much clearer than it was on the 19th. With the press tour, the Hirschfelds were hoping to publicize an offer to lease most of the working parts of the resort and conference center to an outside operator willing to make a go of it. For the time being, it will remain open as it has been.