Friday, November 1, 2013

Acadia NP's Oceanfront Cottage
While researching J.P. Morgan and the Satterlees for my blog, I was looking for old photographs of the Satterlee estate, which included Sand Beach and the oceanside cliff called Great Head.*1  I found one in the digital collection of the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, ME. In the far distance on Sand Beach I could see a small building on the beach that was the Satterlee boathouse. What I didn't immediately see was an almost concealed building poking out of the trees just left of center atop a large ocean ledge. It surprised me. I knew of no buildings having been constructed along the Ocean Drive of today's Acadia National Park.
                                                                                                                                                Penobscot Marine Museum photo

                                                                                                                                              Penobscot Marine Museum photo
Enhanced and enlarged view
This oceanfront building was a cottage belonging to Reverend Christopher Starr Leffingwell, a native Ohioan who became the first rector of Bar Harbor's St. Saviour's Episcopal Church where he served for 20 years until his retirement in 1899. He also founded the Church of Our Father in nearby Hulls Cove with philanthropic contributions from summer residents Cornelia and Mary Prime. Earliest published records indicate the cottage, which was named Camp Aim-Al, existed at least by 1901. It was possibly still extant in 1928, when a newspaper reported "Growth clearings were made on the Leffingwell Estate on the Ocean Drive during the last winter and spring."*2

Rev. Leffingwell, born in Ellsworth, OH on 16 December 1827, died on 11 April 1902 in Washington, DC and was buried in the family lot in Middletown, CT. His wife, Catherine, whom he married in Fairfield, CT in 1857, and six children inherited his Maine properties, including the family home, named The Old Rectory, on Mount Desert Street in Bar Harbor. Another nearby Leffingwell home was the Primrose Cottage, which today is the site of the B&B Primrose Inn.

On 14 August 1929 Leffingwell's six children conveyed the Camp Aim-Al property to George Dorr, then superintendent of Acadia National Park and board member of the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations.*3 Less than a week later, on 20 August, Dorr transferred it to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The following year, on 11 September 1930, Acadia National Park acquired the property from JDR, Jr. Today there is no evidence of Camp Aim-Al's existence, other than for a cut iron pipe in the granite ledge on the ocean side.

The accompanying aerial view shows its location in front of an Ocean Drive parking lot, as well as a path to the former site and ocean ledge.*4

1 See my blog posts of  5 February and 15 April 2013.
2 Bar Harbor Times, September 12, 1928, p. 3.
3 Because of Dorr's U.S. Government job, he likely handled the transaction in his HCTPR capacity to avoid conflict of interest. Regardless, he accomplished his goal of acquiring property to expand the Park's boundaries and protect it from exploitation.
4 GPS coordinates of Camp Aim-Al:  N44° 19.547'  W068° 11.158'

Note: I'm very grateful to Kevin Johnson, PMM's photo archivist, who kindly enhanced the photograph to clearly reveal Camp Aim-Al. PMM's photo collection can be viewed here.