A private Casco Bay island once owned by famed Arctic explorer Robert Peary is up for sale, complete with two private sandy beaches and a secluded camp.
But the next owner is sure to pay a whole lot more than the $800 Peary offered for it in 1907.
Crab Island is a 10-minute boat ride from the Brewer South Freeport Marine. It lies just outside the mouth of the Harraseeket River in Casco Bay. LandVest listed the property last month for $950,000, the first time it has been on the market in 65 years.
The camp on the island has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a large stone fireplace, two wells and a septic system. The island does not have electricity or a dock. Boats use the beaches for access.
Freeport tax records list it as 1 acre in size, but Karen Reiche, a real estate agent with LandVest, says it feels much larger. It also has cleared walking paths around the island.
Crab Island’s ownership can be traced back to Adm. Peary, the world-famous explorer and Bowdoin College grad who led an expedition to the North Pole in 1909.
It was one of a string of islands off Freeport that were purchased by Peary and became known as Peary’s Freeport Archipelago.
A 2009 newsletter from the Freeport Historical Society includes a letter in which Peary tells an associate he wanted to buy Crab Island for $800 in 1907, including the furniture, dishes and all the contents of the cottage. Adjusting for inflation, that $800 would be worth about $22,000 today. It’s not clear if that initial offer was accepted. The official price that the Peary family paid for the property is not listed in the deed.
“The rental for this summer would enable me to put the cottage in repair,” he wrote. “There is fishing off the rocks on the north and east sides and an abundance of clams in the cove on the south end. It is a great place for families and children.”
By 1909, the same year he went to the northernmost spot on the planet, Peary was listed as the owner of Crab Island. It later was listed as belonging to the Peary family, according to the newsletter.
According to Reiche, the island was among those purchased for and owned by Peary’s daughter, Marie.
Marie Peary was a well-known explorer and writer. She was often called “Snowbaby” because she was born in the Arctic while her father and mother were on an expedition in 1893. She later lived in Bowdoin until her death in 1978.
Marie also owned Pound of Tea Island, located between South Freeport Harbor and Crab Island.
The Peary family sold Crab Island in the early 1950s.
Freeport tax records have the current owners listed as Virginia and Alden Waterhouse of Thornton, New Hampshire. The taxable value is $297,800, and nearly all of that is based on the land value. The 1960-era two-bedroom camp is valued at only $16,900.
Reiche says that the Waterhouse family has owned the island for the past 65 years, passing it down through multiple generations. Now they wish to sell the island because of a “change in lifestyle,” Reiche says.
Peter Milholland, owner of Seacoast Tours of Freeport, runs shuttles to and from Eagle Island, about a half-hour boat ride beyond Crab Island.
Eagle Island was one of the many islands owned by the Peary family, and features the previous summer home of Adm. Peary. Today the island is a national historic landmark, open to visitors and tours.
Milholland often points out Crab Island on his shuttles, explaining its connection to the Pearys to visitors. He says he often sees boats docked on the two beaches there. The only visible part of the camp, Milholland says, is a flag waving on the top of it.
“The house is pretty isolated and it’s heavily wooded around it,” he says. “If you want a quiet and secluded spot, then it would be a great space for that.”