Monday, December 3, 2012

Acadia National Park's Discarded "Sweet Waters of Acadia" Slab

There is a section in my book, The Memorials of Acadia National Park, called Miscellaneous Engravings. One of those engravings, on page 88, is a granite slab with English and French inscriptions. It is located at an isolated spot in Acadia NP's Sieur de Monts woods, away from all paths, roads and people.*1

The 4.5x3-foot semicircularly shaped slab has the French words EAUX DOUCES DE L'ACADIE around its upper circumference and its translation SWEET WATERS OF ACADIA horizontally below.

When I asked about it a few years ago, Park personnel did not know why the slab was in the woods but suggested it might have been discarded there. Perhaps.

Recent research has led me to discover the slab's original location, however.

In 1915 the Bar Harbor Times published that the Sieur de Monts Spring Company, a Maine corporation headed by George B. Dorr, was completing construction of three buildings at Sieur de Monts: a spring cover house, a bottling house and a reception room building. Between the spring cover house and the other two buildings, the article detailed, was "a deep rock-enclosed pool about which will be planted ferns, irises and other native greenery. Close beside the pool will be set a tablet bearing an old French description of the region's drinking water -- Eaux Douces de L'Acadie, with its English translation below, Sweet Waters of Acadia -- while stepping stones will lead out into the center of the pool that anyone passing by may drink of the waters as they boil freshly up."*2

In a subsequent Times article the reception room building was described as a small-framed office building. It confirmed, "… at its threshold is a large flat stone on which is the inscription: 'Sweet waters of Acadia,' which is a quotation from Marc Lescarbot, a [French, c. 1570 – 1641] poet and writer of Sieur de Monts' time, who wrote of their voyage to these places."*3
Sieur de Monts Spring House with bottling house in background c.1930
Source: Maine Historical Society

Today, the bottling and reception room buildings are no longer standing at Sieur de Monts. Just the spring cover house and the Park's nature center building are there, on opposite sides of the pool.

Today with Park's nature center building in background
Though the slab's original location is now known, nagging questions remain:
a. Why is it not at the pool?
     Possibly it was because Dorr wanted a more prominent stone to tout the Sweet Waters of Acadia. In 1915, the boulder with the words "Sweet Waters of Acadia" that now is before the spring cover house was not there. When it was installed, it might have replaced the much smaller slab.
b. Why discard the slab in the woods?
     It is very close to the ruins of what might have been a granite structure and a sizeable pile of Macadam. Nearby is a network of old roads. One of these, Meadow Road, led from Bar Harbor's Ledgelawn Avenue, cutting straight through the swampy east side of Great Meadow. The slab lies at its south end. Another old road, in a direct line with Meadow Road, led south from the Macadam pile. While the nature of the past enterprise there is not known, the inscription on the slab might provide a clue.

Sieur de Monts Pool then
Source: Penobscot Marine Museum
Acadia NP is preparing for its 100th anniversary in 2016. It is also the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Already the landscape of Sieur de Monts is changing in anticipation. Long-needed cleanup has occurred in the area of the spring house and the nature center. Unwanted bushes, weeds and small trees have been removed from the pool's perimeter and the Dorr memorial. The nearby Wild Gardens of Acadia are once more looking highly professional and very attractive.

Sieur de Monts Pool today

Perhaps as part of the restoration project, the Park will return the century-old slab to its historic location beside the pool where, once again, it will be at the Sweet Waters of Acadia it proclaims.


1 GPS coordinates of the slab: N44° 21.844'  W068° 12.251'
2 Bar Harbor Times, 9/18/1915; p. 1.
3 Bar Harbor Times, 10/21/1916; p. 7.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Requirements for a National Park Memorial
As the author of The Memorials of Acadia National Park, I'm often asked the question, "How does one establish a memorial in Acadia National Park?" My answer always is, "It's not easy."

A hundred years ago, the situation on Mount Desert Island was quite different than it is here today. In 1901 a group of influential summer residents, under the inspiration and guidance of Charles W. Eliot, then Harvard's president, was worried that development of MDI would forever diminish its beauty. That year they formed the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations and chartered it in 1903 for legal status in Maine. They purchased land and sought land donations on MDI, which they later donated to the U.S. Government for federal preservation and protection. The Trustees honored some of the buyers and donors by remembering them or their loved ones in the form of memorials. They promoted these commemorative works as a way to encourage further land donations to the Trustees and U.S. Government. This spirit continued as the Park progressed through its development and expansion as Sieur de Monts National Monument (1916), Lafayette National Park (1919) and Acadia National Park (1929). Thus, Acadia NP came to be composed almost entirely of donated land.

The National Park Service, established in 1916 -- the same year as Sieur de Monts NM, seemed to encourage commemorative works as well. Shortly after its first director, Stephen Mather, had died in 1930, the NPS placed a bronze memorial plaque in his honor in just about every one of the national parks. In Acadia NP Mather's memorial is on the summit of Cadillac Mountain.*1
Times have changed. Ninety years after its establishment the NPS issued its Management Policies 2006.*2 On page 140, in section 9.6, titled Commemorative Works and Plaques, the document defines what a commemorative work is and states the rationale and justification for its establishment.
            Definition: "commemorative work means any statue, monument, sculpture, memorial, plaque, or other structure or landscape feature, including a garden or memorial grove, designed to perpetuate in a permanent manner the memory of a person, group, event, or other significant element of history. It also includes the naming of park structures or other features—including features within the interior of buildings."

            Rationale and justification: The NPS "will discourage and curtail the use and proliferation of commemorative works except when" authorized by Congress or there is compelling justification for the recognition of the person or event. The document states that compelling justification must meet two criteria: exceptional importance and at least 5 years have elapsed since the death of the person or at least 25 years have elapsed since the event.
Despite the certainty and clarity of Management Policies 2006, it is possible to establish a commemorative work in a national park. At least that's the case in Acadia NP. In 2008 the Park installed its latest one on the east side of Jordan Pond.*3  This bronze plaque, mounted on a hillside boulder, commemorates the vision and generosity of Ruth and Tris Colket to Acadia Trails Forever, the joint Acadia NP/Friends of Acadia program to restore and care for the Park's historic hiking trails.*4

Colket Memorial


Since the founding of the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, 47 individuals and 1 organization have been commemorated on Acadia NP property by a plaque, an engraved granite stone or a path name. Within this number are 8 memorial paths the Park no longer maintains and thus they are not shown on current maps.

So, there is hope that others who have given selflessly of themselves to extend, maintain or promote Acadia NP will someday be remembered with a commemorative work. After all, memorials have been at the heart of Acadia NP's origin and growth.


1 Mather memorial GPS coordinates: N44° 21.148'  W068° 13.454'

2 To see this document, go to:

3 Colket memorial GPS coordinates: N44° 19.735'  W068° 15.076'

4 For a description of this program, see:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dorr's Oldfarm Estate - Volunteer Cleanup

In an earlier post to this blog, entitled "George Bucknam Dorr - the Father of Acadia National Park" (4 May 2012), I mentioned his estate had been neglected for many years; but in December 2011 Acadia National Park let experienced Friends of Acadia (FOA) volunteers, under Park supervision, initiate a cleanup of Dorr's Oldfarm homesite. On October 11, 2012, nearly a year later, the Park again allowed a second supervised FOA volunteer effort to continue the cleanup of the Dorr homesite. FOA sponsors the Park's volunteers.

From 1942 map: Acadia National Park and Vicinity
On this occasion, volunteers filled in four potentially dangerous holes around the foundation with blown ledge and finely crushed aggregate, which was tamped down to a smooth and durable surface.  Other volunteers pruned low tree branches that were overhanging the homesite and nearby roads and paths. Still others carried away fallen or previously cut tree trunks and branches in an effort to make the site more accessible and visible.


Much more work is needed to make the 60-acre estate the showcase many Mount Desert Islanders and Park visitors feel it warrants. The volunteers hope the Park will respond to this essential project accordingly and schedule more work parties.

If you are interested in volunteering at Oldfarm or on the many other projects the Park hosts between June and November, contact Friends of Acadia at 207-288-3340 or the Acadia National Park volunteer coordinator at 207-288-8716. You will find these projects are fun, physical and social and a great way to help keep Acadia National Park the magnificent place that it is.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

J. J. O'Brien and His Jesuit Settlement Memorial

In 1952 a summer resident of Seal Harbor, ME named John Joseph O'Brien (1882-1971) mounted a bronze plaque on a granite cliff in his "Sea Bench" estate garden and invited garden tours to visit and enjoy it.*1  The memorial commemorated the first settlement of Europeans on Mount Desert Island, ME and the introduction of Christianity to the island in 1613. The memorial inscription reads:


Jesuit Settlement outside St. Ignatius
O'Brien commissioned the bas relief memorial, a work done by acclaimed Detroit-based, German-born sculptor Walter Midener. It was cast at the Modern Art Foundry in Queens, NY, the same company that made the bronze statue of University of Maine benefactor Harold Alfond. When O'Brien sold Sea Bench, he removed the memorial and attached it to a 4-ton granite slab which was installed outside of Saint Ignatius Church in Northeast Harbor.*2  This was fitting, as St. Ignatius founded the Jesuit Order.

Marian O'Brien
Courtesy: Clewiston Museum
O'Brien, a Philadelphian and a University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate (1908), was a journalist, industrialist, entrepreneur and politician from Grosse Pointe Farms, MI. Upon graduation he entered newspaper work, but he resigned as city editor of the Philadelphia Ledger in 1914 to go to Florida and develop agricultural land. In 1917 in Hillsborough County (Tampa), FL he married Philadelphian Marian Newhall Horwitz (1882-1932), the widow of Philadelphia attorney George Horwitz, and daughter of Daniel Newhall, vice president of  the Pennsylvania Railroad.*3  He and Marian lived in Moore Haven on the southwest side of Lake Okeechobee. There they formed the Southern Sugar Corp., later reorganized as the U.S. Sugar Corp., the country's largest producer of cane sugar, and established the town of Clewiston, "America's Sweetest Town."*4  Marian was elected mayor of Moore Haven, a.k.a. “Little Chicago” from its location on Lake Okeechobee, and became the first woman mayor in the South. She also was president of the Moore Haven bank. By 1924 he and Marian had sold their land holdings and left the area. In 1925, while a Palm Beach resident, O'Brien purchased "Guy's Cliff," a 6-acre waterfront estate in Bar Harbor that today is the site of the College of the Atlantic's Kaelber Hall. Marian died in their Grosse Pointe Farms home and is buried with her son and sister in St. David’s Episcopal Church cemetery, Wayne, PA.

In 1934, two years after Marian's death, O'Brien married Louise Webber Jackson (1883-1960), niece of the founder of Detroit's Joseph L. Hudson department store and widow of Hudson Motor Car pioneer Roscoe B. Jackson. Bar Harbor's Jackson Laboratory, a cancer research facility funded earlier by Jackson, the Webber family and Edsel Ford, is named for him.*5  O'Brien was a Michigan neighbor of Edsel Ford and living close by was Richard Webber, Louise's brother and a family financier of the Jackson Memorial Laboratory. In 1935 O'Brien was appointed the director of the Wayne County (Detroit) Works Progress Administration. The WPA (1935-1943) had a mission similar to that of the Civilian Conservation Corps (1933-1942) -- to provide jobs and income for unemployed, unskilled workers to do public works projects.

John J. O'Brien
Courtesy: Kebo Valley Golf Club
Among O'Brien's accomplishments on MDI, he was instrumental in setting up the Crobb Box Company in Northeast Harbor in 1942 to make shipping crates for Ford Motor Company’s war-related production effort.*6  He was president of Bar Harbor's Kebo Valley Club (1943-1946) and president of Seal Harbor's Harbor Club (1953-1958). Also, he served on the board of trustees of the Jackson Memorial Laboratory and on the Seal Harbor Village Improvement Society. Upon his death in 1971, which occurred at his Grosse Pointe Farms home, O'Brien requested memorial tributes be sent to the Jackson Memorial Laboratory. He and Louise, who died in Bar Harbor 11 years earlier, are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Detroit, MI.

J. J. O'Brien's Jesuit Settlement Memorial stands today as a silent witness to a seminal event in Mount Desert Island's history. Its 400th anniversary will occur next summer.

1  Bar Harbor Times, 7/24/1952; p. 1.
2  Memorial GPS coordinates: N44° 17.643'  W068° 17.619'
3  George's father, Dr. Phineas Horwitz, a surgeon general of the United States Navy, summered in Bar Harbor from 1879 until his death there in 1904.
4  The O'Briens named the town of Clewiston in honor of their Tampa friend and financier Alonzo C. Clewis.
5  Established in 1929, its original name was the Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory. Today its name is simply The Jackson Laboratory.
6  The name Crobb comes from the initials letters of the founders' surnames -- Irving Clement, Gerald Richardson, John O’Brien and Horace Bucklin. Crobb Box continued to produce its lumber products until purchased last year by Pleasant River Lumber.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Northeast Harbor's Schoolhouse Ledge - a Place for a Peaceful Hike

Northeast Harbor is a picturesque village on Maine's Mount Desert Island. Besides its beautiful homes and harbor, it has an interesting and pleasant network of undulating woods trails. They are located in a hilly section named Schoolhouse Ledge, bounded by Lower Hadlock Pond on the north, the Asticou Inn on the east, Northeast Harbor's downtown on the south and the Northeast Harbor Golf Course on the west. It used to be a confusing place to hike, but that changed this summer. The Northeast Harbor Village Improvement Society (NEHVIS) has produced a free map that will safely guide hikers throughout this area. It identifies the locations of the 7-mile network of 14 marked trails. As more new trail signs are made and posted, the trail network will become even clearer.

The NEHVIS was incorporated in 1898 to care for the village's commonweal. Committees were formed to ensure the heath of its food, water and milk, improve the road conditions, plant trees and flora, and in general make the village a healthy, comfortable and appealing place in which to live and work. Among the committees was the Path Committee. It comprised people who built and maintained the village's paths. One of them was Gordon Falt, a 20-year Path Committee chairman. His memorial, which is alongside the wooden steps descending east from Main Street via Old Firehouse Lane to the harbor's parking lot, states: Gordon H. Falt, Devoted Designer of the Beauty of this Village and Staunch Sustainer of its Trails. 1900-1981.*1  Among the trails he built was the Asticou Brook Trail. Located at the north end of the harbor, it descends from Route 3/Peabody Drive along the brook on the west side of the 1883 Asticou Inn until it reaches the head of the harbor and then turns southwest to end at Route 198/Harborside Road.
Gordon H. Falt Memorial
Trail names, such as Bridle Path, Cliff Trail, Quarry Trail, Steep Trail and the above-mentioned Asticou Brook Trail, give the hiker an idea of what to expect. The quizzically named Skidoo Trail is a head scratcher. A 1915 path guide states: "Built in 1914, it is called the 'Skidoo Trail' on account of the twenty-three steps at its commencement from the high road [Harborside Road]."*2  Wikipedia tells us further that "23 skidoo (sometimes 23 skiddoo) is an American slang phrase popularized during the early twentieth century, first attested before World War I and becoming popular during the 1920s. It generally refers to leaving quickly, being forced to leave quickly by someone else, or taking advantage of a propitious opportunity to leave, that is, 'getting [out] while the getting's good.' The exact origin of the phrase is uncertain."*3  Equally uncertain is the location of the 23 steps, as they are not in evidence at the trail's Harborside Road entrance.

The "Northeast Harbor Trail Map" is in the form of an attractive brochure available at a number of village venues, including the Northeast Harbor Library and the Chamber of Commerce. Pick up a copy and give Schoolhouse Ledge a try. If you find it enjoyable and satisfying, which I'm sure you will, then let the NEHVIS know. They'll appreciate hearing from you.

1  Falt memorial GPS coordinates: N44° 17.622'  W068° 17.246'
A Path Guide of Mount Desert Island, Maine, p. 28. Published by The Village Improvement Societies of Bar Harbor, Seal Harbor, Northeast [sic], and Southwest Harbor. 1915.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Robert McGaunn - A Solemn Memorial on a Mountain Top

This is an unusual post, as I never intended to write about an accident in Acadia National Park. My intention was to stick with the subject of plaques and granite memorials and memorial paths. There is, however, a memorial of sorts in the Park located near the summit of Cedar Swamp Mountain on Mount Desert Island, ME that should be mentioned. It remains in testimony to Robert McGaunn, who lost his life in a plane crash there in 1970 at the age of 49.

McGaunn, born in Massachusetts in 1921, was certified as an airline transport pilot with 6000 hours of flying time. As senior pilot for Aircraft Services International, he was flying solo, ferrying a four-passenger, single-engine Piper PA-24 Comanche, aircraft registration nr. N9349P, from Lock Haven, PA to a customer in Gander, Newfoundland. On 30 June 1970 he refueled at Boston's Logan International Airport, where he received a weather briefing. He took off and proceeded on his 900-mile delivery flight to Gander under visual flight rules (VFR). En route he flew into adverse weather conditions, which would have required his flying under instrument flight rules (IFR). McGaunn, who was IFR rated, for unknown reasons continued to fly with a 300-foot cloud ceiling in the rain and visibility-obscuring fog. He did not complete his trip and was reported missing on that date. A U.S. and Canadian search was started along the route of his expected flight path to Gander, which would have been mainly over water. They found no wreckage. Nearly three months after McGaunn had departed Boston a pilot from nearby Trenton, ME spotted the wreckage while flying over Cedar Swamp Mountain and informed investigators. McGaunn's body was recovered on 29 September 1970. He is buried with his wife, Maxine (King), in Wesley Chapel Cemetery, Crockett, TX.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report of the accident, he collided with trees at about 30 feet above ground level at approximately 942 feet above mean sea level. There was fire after impact. The NTSB determined the accident was the result of pilot error.

We likely will never learn why this accident happened. McGaunn was an experienced pilot. He retired from the U.S. Air Force as a captain who flew in the Korean War and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism. Subsequently he ferried aircraft to Europe. Not all of his ferry flights went smoothly. The Lubbock (TX) Avalanche-Journal reported in its 9 February 1970 edition that McGaunn had made an emergency landing at Shannon airport after flying the last 1,000 miles over the Atlantic on only one of two engines. He was delivering a Piper Aztec to a customer in Geneva, Switzerland.

The wreckage of PA-24 rests hidden in the woods about 500 feet north of the Cedar Swamp Mountain summit. It's a solemn site, where a visitor will respectfully ponder several things: how did it happen and what was going on in the pilot's mind as he drew deeply on his skills to find a way out of his dilemma. The visitor will also contemplate what it was like for his family not to know what happened to him while he was missing for three months. Perhaps, too, after absorbing it all and before leaving, the visitor will bow in silent prayer for the soul of pilot and war hero Robert McGaunn.

GPS coordinates:
Cedar Swamp Mtn summit: N44° 19.692'  W068° 16.571'
Accident site:  N44° 19.749'  W068° 16.621'

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Stephen Mather - Founder and First Director of the National Park Service

This July I had the chance to celebrate my birthday with my family in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. It was my 10th visit to this wonderful and exciting park. In addition to enjoying the spectacular scenery and magnificent wildlife, I thought I'd take some time to seek out the Mather memorial.

This memorial commemorates Stephen Tyng Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, the federal bureau under which America's national parks are managed. Mather was born in San Francisco, California in 1867 and graduated from the University of California in 1887 with a bachelor degree in literature. His first job was with The Sun, a New York City daily newspaper later famous for its 1897 editorial "Is there a Santa Claus?" In 1893 he married Jane Thacker Floy of Elizabeth, New Jersey. That same year Mather left the newspaper business and entered the borax manufacturing business, in which he became a millionaire. He used his wealth to acquire scenic lands, which he donated to the U.S. Government. In 1914 Mather was asked by Department of Interior Secretary Franklin K. Lane for help in managing the country's parks. He accepted and in 1915 became Lane's assistant secretary. Mather successfully lobbied Congress to support legislation to create the National Park Service and in 1916 the NPS came into being under President Woodrow Wilson. Mather was appointed its first director in 1917, a position he held until 1929. Mather died the following year in a Brookline, Massachusetts hospital following a stroke. He and Jane are buried in the Mather Cemetery in Darien, Connecticut.

According to the NPS, "Mather recognized magnificent scenery as the primary criterion for establishment of national parks. He was very careful to evaluate choices for parks, wishing the parks to stand as a collection of unique monuments. He felt those areas which were duplicates might best be managed by others." The beauty and uniqueness of each of the national parks clearly attest to that ambition.

Mather Memorial Dedication - Yellowstone NP 1932
NPS Historic Photo Collection

Bronze bas relief memorials to Mather, like the one I sought in Yellowstone NP, were installed in many national parks soon after his death. The memorial in Yellowstone was installed in 1932 and is located at Madison Junction.

Mather Memorial - Yellowstone NP July 2012

Mather Memorial - Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park in Maine has a Mather memorial, also installed in 1932, on the summit of Cadillac Mountain.

Mather Memorial - Big Bend National Park

In 2010, upon returning from a trip to Australia, I located another Mather memorial in the Chisos Basin of Big Bend National Park, Texas.

Stephen Tyng Mather
NPS photo
All the memorials are identical. They state:
JULY.4.1867 JAN.22.1930

It is my goal to find the Mather memorials in the national parks I visit and pause to remember the "Father" of the U.S. National Park Service and appreciate the good that he has done for us. Perhaps you will now also engage in this interesting quest.

GPS coordinates:
Mather memorial in Acadia NP:  N44° 21.148'  W068° 13.454'
Mather memorial in Yellowstone NP: N44° 38.538'  W110° 51.741'

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Acadia Mountain - a Memorial Gift to Acadia National Park

Many people love to hike the moderately strenuous Acadia Mountain in Acadia National Park, but perhaps they don't know how it came into Park hands. On the east side of Acadia Mountain, in an almost inaccessible location just above the high-tide line of Somes Sound, is a bronze memorial plaque that explains it:


The plaque commemorates the donation of Acadia Mountain to then-named Lafayette National Park in 1919 by Lincoln and Mabel S. Cromwell in memory of Mabel’s parents, Cornelius and Mary. Reverend Dr. Cornelius Bishop Smith was born in Connecticut in 1834 and married New Yorker Mary Wheeler (1842-1914). The rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Manhattan from 1867 to 1895, he first came to Mount Desert Island about 1883. In 1891 he hired local architect Fred L. Savage to build a shingle-style summer cottage, which they called Rosserne, off Manchester Rd. on Somes Sound in Northeast Harbor. It is still impressive today. He also built the beautiful, stone St. James Church, north of Northeast Harbor on the corner of Rte. 198 and Giant Slide Rd. It is now a private home. Cornelius died in1913 at Rosserne. A year after his death, Mary died tragically in a Manhattan apartment house elevator accident.

If you hike Acadia Mountain and wish to make a loop of it, you'll descend its steep south side to the Man-O-War Brook. At the trail junction, you can turn left to where the brook flows over a ledge and splashes into Somes Sound. The Man-O-War Brook name dates from the Revolutionary War, as a site where warships would replenish their water supply.* You can return to your start in the parking lot on Rte. 102 via the Man-O-War Brook fire road, a loop of 2.8 miles. Or you can follow the steep trail up St. Sauveur Mountain back to the parking lot, a loop of 3.7 miles. When deciding which route to take, look around for ruins because you're near the location of the Robinson homestead. Acadia Mountain and Man-O-War Brook fire road were earlier named Robinson Mountain and Robinson Road respectively. In this area too is Gold Diggers Glen, rumored in the 1800s to be the site of gold and pirates' treasure.

If you decide to take the trail up St. Sauveur Mountain, you'll have beautiful views of the entrance to Somes Sound and the islands and ocean beyond. The mountain was named to honor the first European settlement on Mount Desert Island in 1613. About three months after the French Jesuits and their ship-borne compatriots had landed on the site and named it San Sauveur, a British warship arrived, destroyed it and caused the loss of French lives. The unmarked location of San Sauveur is on the field of Fernald Point, a short distance south of St. Sauveur Mountain. A beautiful memorial depicting the landing and commemorating the Jesuit Settlement is outside St. Ignatius Church in Northeast Harbor. The settlement's 400th anniversary will occur next summer.

* At this point you are well south of the memorial plaque's location, but near where you could descend to the water's edge at low tide to begin the difficult scramble to see the plaque.

Note: With regard to descending the steep south side of Acadia Mountain, exercise caution especially if the granite is wet. There have been several injuries there this season.

Helpful GPS coordinates:
Acadia Mt. summit GPS location: N44° 19.386'  W068° 19.359'
Acadia Mt./Smith-Wheeler memorial GPS location: N44° 19.280'  W068° 18.728'
Man-O-War Brook/Robinson homestead/Gold Diggers Glen GPS area: N44° 19.091'  W068° 19.008'
St. Sauveur summit GPS location: N44° 18.611'  W068° 19.381'
San Sauveur Settlement on Fernald Point field GPS area: N44° 17.941'  W068° 18.651'
Jesuit Settlement memorial at St. Ignatius Church GPS location: N44° 17.643'  W068° 17.619'

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Memorial Walk: Bar Harbor to Sieur de Monts

For something different I thought I'd recreate an old walk from the Bar Harbor village green to Acadia National Park's Sieur de Monts area, the latter being a popular destination from town during the formative years of the Park in the early 1900s. It is a mostly flat, 5-mile loop. Along the way you'll pass memorials and trail markers, while enjoying interesting sights in Bar Harbor and the Park. There are restrooms at Sieur de Monts. As with all woods walks, bring drinking water and bug repellant. Hats, cameras and binoculars should also be taken. Note: Portions involve walking on the edge of streets.

The walk starts at the 1906 horse trough/fountain at the southeast corner of Bar Harbor's village green. Walk west along Mt Desert St (Black on map)past the Jesup Memorial Library, a gift to Bar Harbor in 1911 by New Yorker Maria DeWitt Jesup in memory of her late husband, Morris. You'll pass three churches: the Congregational Church, since rebuilt, was the first church in Bar Harbor; St. Saviour and Holy Redeemer are named to commemorate San Sauveur, the first European settlement on the island, whose 400th anniversary will occur next year.

Make a left turn onto Kebo St (Lime). Notice on the southwest corner a stone with a memorial to Philadelphian DeGrasse Fox, an early developer of Bar Harbor. Proceed along Kebo St and at the intersection cross Cromwell Harbor Rd. The large stone on the southeast corner has the words "Jesup Path," a memorial path in honor of the Jesups. Stay on the Jesup Path (Blue)--also called here the Great Meadow Loop trail. In a short distance the path ends. You will have to walk on Kebo St, crossing over Kebo Brook. The fairways of Kebo Valley Golf Course, the eighth oldest golf course in the U.S., are on both sides of this street.  Rejoin the path in front of Holy Redeemer Cemetery. As you walk along the path, you will see the remnants of an old quarry on your right. Just beyond this point, cross Kebo St and reenter the Great Meadow Loop trail. A short distance ahead bear right at the trail post for the Jesup Path, descend the stone steps and cross the Park Loop Rd. Enter the Jesup Path. Get your binoculars ready, as this is the Great Meadow, a good venue for warblers.

Stay on the Jesup Path through the Great Meadow until it meets the gravel Hemlock Rd (Orange). Follow the Hemlock Rd to the right -- do not enter the Jesup Path boardwalk. You'll pass a trail post on the right and an engraved stone with the words "Strath Eden Path," an 1890s path out of Bar Harbor, which was officially called Eden until 1918; strath is Scottish Gaelic for river valley. Continuing on the Hemlock Rd you'll pass a trail post on the right with the words "Homans Path" (see an earlier blog article). Turn right just after it and rejoin the Jesup Path (opposite the boardwalk). Cross the wooden bridge and in a few feet turn right at the Jesup Path trail post.

On the right you'll pass stone steps and a trail post for the "Emery Path," a memorial path to Cincinnatian John Emery, who built the massive granite Turrets cottage in 1895 on what is now the College of the Atlantic campus. To your left is the white Sieur de Monts spring house; Bostonian George Dorr, the "Father of Acadia National Park," purchased the land in 1909 to preserve the spring. Continue straight ahead and cross the rustic wooden bridge. On the right is the native-American Abbe Museum, founded in 1928 by New Yorker Dr. Robert Abbe who was likely the first U.S. physician to use radium for cancer treatment.

Cross the gravel road and continue to The Tarn, a pond in the process of converting itself into a marsh. Near the outflow are four memorials on the right. The first you come upon is the memorial plaque for the Jesups. The next is the engraved sixth step on the entrance to the Kurt Diederich Climb memorial path, a Marylander who suffered early tragedies. Just beyond it is a stone marking the start of the memorial Kane Path and a few feet beyond it is a memorial plaque to New Yorker John Kane for whom the path was named.

Return to The Tarn's outflow and cross the 10 stepping stones. Make an immediate left at the trail post onto the Wild Garden Path (Brown) and return to Sieur de Monts to the Nature Center building. You are now heading back to Bar Harbor. Behind the Nature Center is a memorial to George Dorr. Cross the wooden bridge in front of the Nature Center and at the entrance to the botanical Wild Gardens of Acadia. Make an immediate right at the trail post pointing to the Jesup Path and proceed straight until you come to the boardwalk. Take the boardwalk, which is the newly-rehabilitated Jesup Path, to its end and make an immediate right onto the Hemlock Rd. Continue along it, binoculars at the ready, to its end at the boulders and the Park Loop Rd.

Cross the road and turn right onto the Great Meadow Loop trail (Green). The golf course is on the left. Just beyond the path's bridge is Ledgelawn Ave. Cross it and reenter the Great Meadow Loop trail at the trail post. The trail returns to Ledgelawn Ave. Turn right and walk along the road until you reenter the Great Meadow Loop trail at the signpost and wooden bridge on the left. Continue on the trail. A cemetery will be on your left. Whistle, if you like. When you come to the boulders and Cromwell Harbor Rd, turn left and proceed to the entrance of Ledgelawn Cemetery. Just inside the cemetery to the left is the large, white horizontal gravestone of George McMurtry, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism with the famed WW I "Lost Battalion." Cross the road and enter Spring St (Red).  Follow it back to Mt Desert St. Turn right and continue to this walk's end at the village green. Phew. You've earned yourself a delicious, locally-made ice cream!

For those interested in using GPS, here are the coordinates of the memorials and path markers mentioned:
1-Village Green fountain/horse trough: N44° 23.261'  W068° 12.270'
2-Jesup Memorial Library: N44° 23.233'  W068° 12.386'
3-DeGrasse Fox memorial: N44° 23.175'  W068° 12.811'
4-Jesup Path stone: N44° 22.715'  W068° 12.835'
5-Strath Eden Path stone: N44° 21.997'  W068° 12.765'
6-Homans Path entrance: N44° 21.781'  W068° 12.548'
7-Emery Path entrance: N44° 21.695'  W068° 12.513'
8-Abbe Museum: N44° 21.662'  W068° 12.475'
9-Jesup, Diederich, Kane memorials: N44° 21.512'  W068° 12.425'
10-George Dorr memorial: N44° 21.721'  W068° 12.466'

Note: For a compact and informative guide of Bar Harbor you might wish to get Betty Massie's Self-Guided Walking Tour of Historic Bar Harbor.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Curran Path - a Once Long and Lovely Walk

At the northwest corner of Eagle Lake, about three miles west of Bar Harbor's village green, there is a cove, almost touching Eagle Lake Road/Route 233. It is known locally as "Nick's Cove."

The topmost corner of the cove was once the start of a trail referred to as the Curran Path. It came into existence about 1885 and started on property owned by the Currans. It ran south along the west side of Eagle Lake, turned west to skirt Conners Nubble and entered a valley called the Southwest Pass between Sargent Mountain and The Bubbles. There it joined a woods road and continued south to the northwest end of Jordan Pond for an overall distance of 2.8 miles. From here a hiker could continue around Jordan Pond, perhaps to enjoy popovers and tea at the Jordan Pond House at its south end. For those wishing a more strenuous outing, alternative destinations were the summits of Sargent, Penobscot, Pemetic or The Bubbles. Others seeking a lengthy but easier hike could continue to Seal Harbor via the Seaside Path or Northeast Harbor via the Asticou Trail.

1887 Map of Mount Desert Island
showing Curran House and Lake House
The name Nick's Cove is a reference to Nicholas F. Curran (1840-1901). He and his wife Mary Harris (Ellison) (1839-1917), who married in 1871, were from Bangor, Maine, where Mary was born and where she worked for many years as a librarian for the Bangor Public Library. Nicholas had emigrated from Ireland in 1855. They purchased two acres of land abutting the cove in 1884. The Curran Path likely assumed its name from the Curran's property over which it passed.  On the property were a stable, shop and house, which the Currans operated as a small hotel, aptly named the Curran House.*1  A short walk to the east and near the Eagle Lake outlet was the Lake House.*2  The Currans ran both as places to stay, dine and hire equipment or guides to enjoy the lake. Fire destroyed the Lake House in 1891. By 1896 Nicholas was the proprietor of a second Curran House, a small hotel on Main Street near the wharf in downtown Bar Harbor. In 1902 Mary Curran, now a widow, sold the property to Frank Brewer, who sold it to the Bar Harbor Water Company in 1915. The very next day, the water company conveyed the property to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations with the provision that nothing would ever be built or maintained upon it, out of its interest to protect the purity of Bar Harbor's water supply.

Lake House
Courtesy: Maine Historic Preservation Commission
It is interesting to note that Nicholas complained to the Bar Harbor Water Company in 1897 about the loss of his property shoreline due to the higher water level following the company's construction of the dam at the lake's north end. The lost property extended to a depth of 47 feet. The BHWC built the dam about 1895, which raised the lake's natural water level as much as three feet.

Acadia National Park stopped maintaining the Curran Path in the 1950s, and it is now mostly untraceable. There are interesting stone steps, however, alongside the lake's edge due east of Carriage Road Post 9 near the path's north entrance.*3  The Curran Path first appeared on 1896 maps compiled by Waldron Bates, Edward L. Rand and Herbert Jaques. The last map to display the whole path from Nick's Cove to Jordan Pond was the 1941 Path and Road Map of the Eastern Part of Mount Desert Island, revised and published by William Jay Turner.*4  The 1942 Topographic Map - Acadia National Park and Vicinity showed the start of the path about 0.6 mile south of its original beginning. Perhaps the rise in water level, which aggravated Curran, obliterated the north section of the path. It does not appear construction of the carriage road affected this section. The 1961 Appalachian Mountain Club Map of Mount Desert Island reprised the complete path, but described it as "condition unknown or abandoned."

It is easy to imagine the Curran Path as a long and lovely woods walk joining two beautiful lakes. Maybe, some day, the Park will reopen it for our enjoyment.

Postscript: Nicholas and Mary Curran are buried in Bangor's Mount Hope Cemetery.

1  Curran House GPS location: N44° 22.614'  W068° 15.246'
2  Lake House GPS location (approx.): N44° 22.590'  W068° 14.787' Near the Lake House people could board the stern-wheeler Wauwinet for a cruise down Eagle Lake to catch the cog railway to the summit of Green Mountain (renamed Cadillac Mountain). The Green Mountain Railway went out of business in 1890, a year before the Lake House burned.
3  Stone steps GPS location: N44° 22.572'  W068° 15.165'
4  Turner was the Northeast Harbor Village Improvement Society path committee chairman from 1921-46.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Van Santvoord Trail - a Hiking Enigma

It is not often that you can be hiking on one trail but then reach a sign that says you are on another trail. This can be confusing, maybe even frightening, yet this is precisely what a hiker experiences in Acadia National Park when hiking on the Triad Trail. The name of the trail relates to the three peaks in a scenic section of the Park south of Pemetic Mountain that is known simply as The Triad.

Van Santvoord memorial
On a granite ledge near the East Triad peak there is a 22x5-inch bronze memorial plaque that identifies the trail, however, as "The Van Santvoord Trail."*1  The plaque was placed there and dedicated in 1916 following completion of the trail's construction.

The trail honors John V. Van Santvoord, who, as Path Committee chairman of the Seal Harbor Village Improvement Society, laid out the route in 1912. Construction of this loop trail started in 1915. The trailhead was in a valley off the old Wildwood Farm Road west of today's Wildwood Stables and ascended the West Triad peak. It continued across the Middle and East Triad peaks. Beyond the latter it descended to its origin in the valley for a total distance of 1.4 miles.*2  A section of the subsequently built carriage road running between the Wildwood Stables and the Jordan Pond House cut the trail in two spots near its southern end. Steps, overhung and obscured by dense pines, continue down from the carriage road.

John Van Santvoord, born in New Jersey about 1844, was one of four sons of admiralty lawyer Cornelius Van Santvoord. A banker, an owner of the Hudson River Day Line boat company and a resident of New York City, he summered in Seal Harbor on Mount Desert Island and was the second chairman of its Village Improvement Society path committee (1907 -1913).

Lake Mohonk Mountain House
Detroit Pub. Co - Library of Congress
Tragically in 1913 servants found him drowned in his bathtub, apparently of a heart attack, at the Lake Mohonk Mountain House, a resort hotel 90 miles north of NYC. He had gone to this scenic Hudson Valley spot to relax following the death of his sole remaining brother.

Van Santvoord Trail staircase
The Van Santvoord Trail does not exist in the Park's path and trail inventory. It is no longer shown by this name on trail maps. In fact, a .35-mile section of it south of the East Triad to its terminus in the valley has been missing from maps for 70 years. The last map on which the entire trail appears is the 1942 Topographic Map of Acadia National Park and Vicinity. The missing section nebulously reappears 29 years later on the 1971 Appalachian Mountain Club Map of Mount Desert Island - Acadia National Park where it is described as "trail-condition unknown or abandoned." This missing trail section was intricately constructed, with numerous steps and four winding staircases shaping its way south from near the East Triad summit. For reasons not known the Park chose not to maintain this section. Instead, it connected the remaining sections of the Van Santvoord Trail to two other trails, renamed them the Hunters Brook Trail and the Triad Trail, and dissolved the Van Santvoord name. Fortunately the memorial plaque was left in place.

The Van Santvoord Trail (red)
Will the Park reopen the Van Santvoord Trail? Those who have hiked it in its entirety would strongly recommend the Park seriously consider it. Not only would a historic trail with skillful stone craftsmanship and spectacular views be reinstated for the pleasure of Park visitors, but also the hiking enigma would be solved.

* Footnotes:
1  Memorial GPS coordinates:  N44° 19.198'  W068° 14.220'
2 All distances are computed from the 1942 map referred to above.

Friday, May 4, 2012

George Bucknam Dorr - the Father of Acadia National Park

George B. Dorr
Courtesy: ANP-NPS
George B. Dorr has been called the "Father of Acadia National Park." Appropriately so. His successful efforts to preserve this beautiful area involved frequent travel between Mount Desert Island, ME and Washington, DC and extensive coordination between the Federal Government and the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations to have its acquired property accepted as Federal land. Later he served as Acadia National Park's first superintendent, a job he held for nearly 30 years.

George Bucknam Dorr was born in 1853 in his parents’ home on the shore of Jamaica Pond in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, MA. He came to MDI with his parents in the summer of 1868. Eight years later they built their Bar Harbor summer home, which they named Oldfarm, on 90 acres at Compass Harbor. The property's entrance is a mile south of the Bar Harbor village green.*1  Dorr was a horticulturalist and in 1896 he established the Mount Desert Nurseries on 20 acres of his Oldfarm property. Irrigation pipes and old culverts off the Schooner Head Path are still visible.*2  He also owned the Bear Brook Quarry, located at the north base of Champlain Mountain.*3  It is below the Park Loop Road parking lot opposite the entrance to the Champlain North Ridge Trail (former name: Bear Brook Trail).

Dorr was among the original founders of the HCTPR in 1901and its incorporators in 1903. Through Dorr’s determination and the efforts of members of the HCTPR, of which Harvard President Charles W. Eliot was President and Dorr its First Vice-President, some 6000 acres of donated land, including Cadillac Mountain, were acquired and presented to President Woodrow Wilson for federal protection. As a result, Wilson established Sieur De Monts National Monument in 1916. Dorr had suggested the name in honor of the Frenchman under whom Samuel de Champlain sailed; it was Champlain who named Mount Desert Island in 1604. In 1919 Congress gave it national park status and renamed it Lafayette National Park in honor of the French general and American Revolutionary War hero. In 1927 Dorr secured the donation of over 2,000 acres of promised land on Schoodic Peninsula across Frenchman Bay from the heirs of native Mainer and wealthy NY-entrepreneur John G. Moore. Moore's daughters, who had immigrated to Great Britain and become citizens, suggested their land donation to the Park could go through if the French name of the Park were changed. Thus in 1929, upon Dorr's suggestion, the Park's name changed from Lafayette to Acadia.

Dorr, who was six feet tall and blue-eyed, never married. He died at his beloved Oldfarm estate in 1944 at the age of 90. According to his wishes, he was cremated at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA and his ashes were scattered beneath the trees at the northwestern foot of Champlain Mountain near the 12-acre Beaver Dam Pond. A popular but entirely fictitious tale maintains that Dorr's ashes were scattered over Oldfarm from an airplane and into the teacups of women relaxing below! A simple memorial stone was placed at the Dorr family lot in Mount Auburn Cemetery. It is often stated he died penniless, having expended all of his wealth on the Park. But that may not be so. His estate gave Bar Harbor's Jesup Memorial Library $12,865.63 and equal amounts of $6,432.81 to the HCTPR and the Abbe Museum of Bar Harbor. His memorial was dedicated on August 29, 1947 at Sieur de Monts Spring. It reads:

In Memory of
George Bucknam Dorr
1853  -  1944
Gentleman  Scholar
Lover of nature
Father of this
National Park
Steadfast in his zeal
to make the beauties
of this Island
available to all

1947 Dedication
Courtesy: Woodlawn Museum
Dorr's memorial is located behind the Sieur de Monts Nature Center.*4  Less than two months after the memorial had been dedicated, MDI suffered a devastating fire that destroyed a third of the Park, including Sieur de Monts. The Dorr memorial plaque survived. The granite stone on which it was attached apparently did not, as the memorial is now secured to a different stone but in the approximate location. Also in his honor, Dry Mountain, which overshadows the Sieur de Monts area, was renamed Dorr Mountain.

What became of the Oldfarm estate? Dorr donated it to Acadia National Park in 1941with the wish that it would at least be used as a place for visiting VIPs to meet and stay. The park tore down his Oldfarm home 10 years later, but remnants of it exist.*5  Storm Beach Cottage, the 1879 guest house into which Dorr had moved after conveying Oldfarm, remains and serves as seasonal Park employee housing.*6

Oldfarm home
Courtesy: ANP-NPS
Storm Beach Cottage
The Oldfarm estate no longer comprises its original 90 acres. Today there are about 60 acres under Park control. Over the years the Oldfarm property has been neglected and it has transformed itself into a quasi town park enjoyed for strolls, dog walks, and occasional bike rides. On the official Park map it is shaded as Park property but not identified.

Home site cleanup-Dec. 2011
Local groups, sensing the evanescence of a significant tribute to the Park's founder, have lobbied the Park for years to do something about it. With renewed interest the Park this past December let a small team of experienced volunteers clean up the home site of debris and some surrounding vegetation and remove the growth of moss carpet from its brick floors. Much more can and needs to be done. It is hoped that with Park permission and guidance work will continue on the site and in time George B. Dorr's Oldfarm estate will receive the historical recognition it deserves.

Oldfarm aerial view
* Footnoted GPS coordinates:
1  estate entrance:  N44° 22.427'  W068° 11.834'
2  path entrance:  N44° 22.345'  W068° 11.670'
3  quarry:  N44° 21.785'  W068° 11.566'
4  memorial:  N44° 21.721'  W068° 12.466'
5  home:  N44° 22.447'  W068° 11.577'
6  cottage:  N44° 22.317'  W068° 11.560'

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Magnificent and Mysterious Homans Path

Hiking in Acadia National Park is an extraordinary experience. The Park maintains about 135 miles of beautiful and interesting paths and trails, ranging from the easy to the strenuous and even perilous. Many are memorial paths. One of the latter is the Homans Path. Its entrance is located in the Sieur de Monts Spring area near the junction of the Jesup Path and the Hemlock Road.*1

Homans Path entrance

The path is named for Eliza Lee Homans. In 1908 she gave the first large gift of land to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations. It consisted of 141 acres and included The Bowl and The Beehive on Champlain Mountain, two popular hiking destinations today. At the time, the HCTPR was attempting to acquire land on Mount Desert Island for protection from development and for preservation for public enjoyment. It is interesting to note that Eliza, in giving this property, reserved the right to keep a boathouse on The Bowl, a 10-acre pond, and specified the Beehive Mountain Aqueduct Company would continue to use the pond to provide water to nearby residents. No sign of the boathouse is evident today and the BMAC no longer exists.

The Bowl
The Beehive

Eliza was born in 1832 in Dover, NH, and in 1856 married Charles Dudley Homans. Charles, born in Brookfield, MA, in 1826, graduated from Harvard in 1846 and was a physician and a president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. They lived at the "Homans Cottage" on property abutting the south side of the Schooner Head Overlook, 3.8 miles south of Bar Harbor's village green. Charles died in Bar Harbor in 1886; Eliza died there 28 years later. Both are buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA.

Mt Auburn Cemetery
The Homans estate was purchased in 1924 through private efforts and is now Park property. All that remains of the estate, once consisting of a house, farmhouse and stable, is a covered well and some pipes emanating from it.

The highly crafted, stone-stepped Homans Path has a mysterious history from the 1940s, when it ceased to appear on maps for over 60 years. Built in 1915-1916 shortly after Eliza's death, the path last appeared on the 1941 Path and Road Map of the Eastern Part of Mount Desert Island, Maine and did not reappear until indicated on the 2005 Acadia National Park map. The Park "reopened" it in 2003 as part of the Acadia Trails Forever project, a joint effort of Acadia National Park and Friends of Acadia to rehabilitate and restore the Park's trails. In October 2006 the path sustained damage from an earthquake but was successfully repaired and reopened the following year.

Homans Path

It is a magnificent path to experience and not soon to be forgotten. It consists of granite steps, passages and overhangs on its 0.33 mi length.  Its vertical height is 328 ft and should be considered moderately strenuous. Once at the top hikers can continue on to the 1270-ft summit of Dorr Mountain via the Schiff Path or return to Sieur de Monts via the Emery Path or the Kurt Diederich Climb, three other stellar memorial paths.

Homans Path - aerial view

Postscript: ANP treats trails and paths differently, with the latter showing significant human engineering, such as the addition of steps, staircases, and iron ladders and handrails. It also respects the historical names originally applied to these paths by their benefactors and builders.
1 Homans Path entrance GPS coordinates: N44° 21.780' W068° 12.549'