Town History

mountdesertstreet_jpegimageOriginally incorporated as the Town of Eden, the original document signed by Samuel Adams in 1796 and a warrant calling the first town meeting are on display, the town’s name was changed to Bar Harbor in 1918.

Bar Harbor’s fascinating history as a summer resort began long before Champlain’s visit in 1604. The Abnakis were the original summer people. In the 1850’s, painters such as Frederic E. Church, Thomas Cole, Fitz Hugh Lane, William Hart and Thomas Birch popularized the area thru their exhibits of the island’s beautiful mountains and seascapes. The first Hotel on the island was built in Bar Harbor by Tobias Roberts, the Agamont House in 1855. Alpheus Hardy was the first summer resident to build a “cottage” called Birch Point in 1868. More and more hotels and cottages were built as people “rusticators” came to the island by train and the Mount Desert Ferry to dock at Bar Harbor.

The land boom continued until the 1880’s when such notables as Joseph Pulitzer, William Proctor, Mary Cadwalader Jones, Frederick Vanderbilt, George Vanderbilt and Evelyn Walsh McLean came and built magnificent “cottages”. When you visit the museum library you can see pictures of these and many more of the summer “cottages”.

It was at this time that Boston native George B. Dorr worked tirelessly with Charles W. Eliot and later with John D. Rockefeller Jr. to bring about the National Park, which was organized in 1916 as Sieur de Monts monument. The name was changed in 1919 to Lafayette National Park and in 1929 to Acadia National Park. George B. Dorr was the first Superintendant of the Park. There is a permanent exhibit of Mr. Dorr that is worth checking out.

The Gilded Age

Bar Harbor, with its wealthy and powerful summer visitors, had become a rival with Newport, Rhode Island as the place to be seen and to play in the 1880’s through the first part of 20th century. President Taft could be seen playing golf at Kebo Golf Club in August, 1910. The garden parties at the Pot & Kettle club were attended by ladies and gentleman in the beautiful long dresses and attire of the time. Robin Hood Park – Morrell Park was the place for a great afternoon of horse racing.
At the museum, all of these events and more are documented by pictures and artifacts.

What do the USS Saratoga, Kronprinzessin Cecile, USS Richard, Dirigible Shenandoah and the QEII have in common? These ships and dirigible all visited Bar Harbor from 1881 to 1981. The latter being the first visit of the QEII. Some stops were planned, others were not. Come and see the circumstances of their visits and the artifacts left behind.

The Great Fire of 1947

oct23_1947_fireThe devastation of the fire of 1947 can be viewed in the many collected scrapbooks of personal and news based accounts. The many statistics include the following:

Acreage Data – cumulative by dates

Date
Inside park
outside park
total
10/17 130 130
10/21 85 1940 2025
10/22 1055 2940 3995
10/23 7450 8970 16420
final 8630 9930 18560

forest_street_fire

Acreage Data – by town

Town
inside park
outside park
total
Bar Harbor 7930 9745 17675
Mount Desert 700 185 885

170 year round residents lost their homes, while 67 summer residents lost theirs.