Thursday, January 10, 2013

Acadia National Park's Other Bar Island

At the north end of Somes Sound outside the entrance to Somes Harbor and off Squantum Point is Bar Island. The 6-acre island was purchased in 1880 by New Yorkers James Williamson Pryor (1858-1924) and his sister Caroline (1857-1934), during a stay at the Central House, a popular venue in Somesville. They built a log cabin on the island, which was described as "a most comfortable summer cottage on Pryor's Island."*1  It was also termed "the first summer home built in Somesville"*2  At the time, the island was accessible by boat or by foot over the bar that connects it to the mainland of Mount Desert Island.

Courtesy: Northeast Harbor Library
Courtesy: Northeast Harbor Library
An 1887 map shows Bar Island and depicts the locations of the log cabin, a well and a wharf.
Bar Island from the Sargent Mountain Around Mountain Carriage Road
James later deeded his half ownership of the island to Caroline, who in the meantime had married John Pine (1857-1922), a Columbia University friend of his. She redeeded this half to James's wife, Edith Tweedy (1865-1935). On July 18, 1925 the wives, in honor of their deceased husbands, donated the island to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations. The HCTPR conveyed it to the Park on December 3, 1925.

Before official receipt of the island from the HCTPR, the Park used it for a social function. The Bar Harbor Times reported that Park superintendent George Dorr had hosted a luncheon for 60 guests from the Appalachian Club at Echo Lake "at the beautiful log cabin which is part of the fine gift of the island and its buildings to the National Park from Mrs. John B. Pine and Mrs. James W. Pryor."*3

On the northwest corner of the island, on an overlook facing Somesville, is a memorial to James Pryor and John Pine.*4  The memorial, inscribed on granite, states:

A D  1925

Aerial view of memorial location

Pryor-Pine memorial
In November 2011Friends of Acadia-ANP volunteer treated the severely weathered and lichen-encrusted memorial to help preserve the inscription.

Memorial during treatment
Very little of the homestead remains today, apart from a concrete tank, a covered well and the ruins of steps that led to the wharf below. A cleared and flat area might have been a tennis court site.

Concrete tank
Well before covered (2007)
Steps to wharf
Bar Island is an interesting destination to explore, picnic or rest. Nowadays access is by boat only, as the bar connects to private property. Be mindful this access is prohibited between February 15 and August 31st, if eagles are nesting. Check with Park headquarters before your visit.

* Footnotes:
1 Mount Desert Herald, 9/30/1887; [p.3]. Mapmakers have consistently labeled the island as Bar Island; yet, it was often locally referred to as Pryor's Island.
2 Bar Harbor Times, 6/13/1934; p. 8.
3 Bar Harbor Times, 8/26/1925; p. 12.
4 Memorial GPS coordinates:  N44° 21.390'  W068° 19.427'