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.