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WINTER HARBOR — Edith Robb Dixon, a longtime resident and benefactor in Winter Harbor, this week made a gift of $1 million to renovate the historic French Norman Revival style building at the entrance to the Schoodic Education Research Center (SERC) at Acadia National Park.
She said the gift to upgrade and spruce up the three-story structure built by John D. Rockefeller in the 1930s was being made in honor of her late husband, Fitz Eugene Dixon Jr., who, like Mrs. Dixon, shared a deep interest in education and the town’s well-being.
The recipient of the gift is Acadia Partners for Science and Learning, which Dixon founded and which partners with the National Park Service to provide science education, research and training at Schoodic for students, teachers, researchers and the general public.
“Fitz was very excited by this important work from the beginning of this undertaking in 2005 and he would be very pleased with the extraordinary strides made in a few short years,” Mrs. Dixon said at a board meeting of Acadia Partners July 7.
“Downeast Maine, the Winter Harbor community, this special place has always meant a great deal to him and to his family,” she said. “It feels very right that this building and campus support two things he loved — education and Winter Harbor.”
SERC was established at a former U.S. Navy military base after the government decided to close the base in 2001.
Mrs. Dixon said the idea for SERC stemmed from brainstorming by Schoodic Futures, a group organized following the Navy’s decision.
“It was very important forward-thinking in handling the closure,” she said. “It’s an important part of how this has all evolved.”
Alan Goldstein, chairman of the board of Acadia Partners, said the $4.9 million in stimulus money approved for renovations at the park did not include funding to update and improve the so-called Rockefeller Building.
The three-story structure includes 10, two-bedroom apartments and a larger apartment that had been occupied by the commanding officer. Preliminary plans for the renovation include bringing the structure up to current fire and safety codes; incorporating a main welcoming center on the first floor of the building; executive offices, and guest quarters for researchers and faculty.
The stimulus funding is largely earmarked to demolish more than a dozen buildings on the site, expand parking in a few central locations, and create many more trails on the property to give it a more campus-like feel while retaining the wooded nature of the park.
“This is the most important thing that has happened since the partnership with the Park Service was developed,” Goldstein said. “The building is going to be a gateway to SERC. We’re very excited about it.”
Dennis O’Brien, executive director of Acadia Partners, said the building is both iconic and historic, which is why it was used as the logo for Acadia Partners.
The gift from Mrs. Dixon, he said, was in keeping with the couple’s continuing interest in the natural science research and training being conducted at the park.
“It was clear from the outset that Acadia Partners embodied things that mattered to Mr. Dixon,” O'Brien said. “The building is both real and symbolic. It’s a national historic building, and it’s beautiful. It will be the heart and the center of the campus.”