In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Mount Desert Island: Shaped by Nature

Activities for Rusticators

Climbing Newport (Champlain) Mountain, 1886
Climbing Newport (Champlain) Mountain, 1886Item Contributed by
Abbe Museum

Bar Harbor comes as near affording universal satisfaction to humanity’s craving for happiness as any place in this terrestrial sphere possibly can. Nowhere is there a better field for enjoyment than in this little Eden. -Sherman’s Bar Harbor Guide, 1890

Nature’s Pleasures

Once unpacked and settled in, rusticators faced an array of invigorating options: Clamber up a mountain? Hike a woodland trail? Tramp across the mudflats? Rocking on the seaside ledges? Investigate tidal pools or coastal caverns? Boat the bays or lakes (powered by oar, paddle, sail or steam)? Brave an island tour in a buckboard? Stroll a field and pick wildflowers? Some combination of these?

Richards family, ca. 1895
Richards family, ca. 1895Item Contributed by
Abbe Museum

In the 1870s, Henry Richards, a young architect from Gardiner, Maine, traveled by steamer to Bar Harbor to supervise the construction of a summer home for Mrs. Charles Dorr. On that same steamer, a Wabanaki canoe maker was carrying a fleet of bark canoes that he would rent to Bar Harbor's burgeoning tourist population. Richards, fascinated with these canoes, purchased this canoe before disembarking the steamer. Tudor and John Richards II, grandsons of Henry Richards, donated this canoe to the Abbe Museum in 2006.

Building of Arts, Bar Harbor, ca. 1910
Building of Arts, Bar Harbor, ca. 1910Item Contributed by
Jesup Memorial Library

Cultural Amusements

Entertainment options increased with each new summer season as many hotels offered more amenities and entertainments, and as cottagers initiated new activities, events, and social clubs: Enter the horse show? Dress up for a masquerade ball? Attend a concert at the Building of the Arts? Play golf or tennis at the Kebo Club? Join the Improved Order of Red Men Society? Visit the Wabanaki encampment and meet real Indians?

Mount Desert Reading Room
Mount Desert Reading RoomItem Contributed by
Jesup Memorial Library

The Mt. Desert Reading Room, Bar Harbor, grew out of the town’s first club, the Oasis (founded in 1874) where men gathered to drink and talk. Women, excluded from this men’s association, founded a social club of their own in 1897, situated in a seaside cottage within spying range of the Reading Room.

The Bar Harbor Horse Show

Clear skies, a bright sun, and a mild sea breeze made the second day of the Horse Show at Bar Harbor a brilliant picture. Society was here in force, and gayly dressed. . . . -New York Times, 22 Aug. 1901

Bar Harbor Horse Show
Bar Harbor Horse ShowItem Contributed by
Jesup Memorial Library

A fine stable of horses carried great prestige among Mount Desert’s summer elite as did winning a ribbon in the annual horse show, long held at Robin Hood Park (where Jackson Laboratory is today).