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Mount Desert Island: Shaped by Nature

Economic History of Main Street, Northeast Harbor

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Main Street in the 20th century

Red Cross Car and Trailer, Main Street, Northeast Harbor, 1947
Red Cross Car and Trailer, Main Street, Northeast Harbor, 1947

Item Contributed by
Northeast Harbor Library

By 1910, Northeast Harbor had four groceries, one fruit stand, two dry goods stores, four stables, three blacksmiths, three building contractors, three plumbers, one masonry contractor, three granite quarries and a boat builder. There were two pharmacies, two barbers, two clothiers, four tailors, six dressmakers and one shoemaker. There was a photographer’s shop, a restaurant and meals being served in the various hotels. There was a physician (three in the summer), two dentists, an attorney and an architect. There were also two billiards halls and the Neighborhood House.

During the 1920s, as the village grew, business on Main Street changed hands and the buildings themselves were transformed. Additions were constructed, new entrances were added, and the small side streets could no longer adequately handle the traffic. Over the years, there were various proposals backed by the Village Improvement Society to change Main Street. In 1927, the society, along with the town engineer, proposed razing numerous buildings on Main Street, replacing them and widening the road. The proposal did not pass. In 1928, the Village Improvement Society proposed to create a park that would stretch from Main Street to the harbor. This was also rejected by the people of the village.

Asticou Inn, Northeast Harbor, ca. 1945
Asticou Inn, Northeast Harbor, ca. 1945

Item Contributed by
Great Harbor Maritime Museum

During the 1930s, Northeast Harbor’s economy was not immune from the Great depression. Numerous hotels closed and only three remained open by 1940. However, some new businesses opened including a Ford dealership at the corner of Neighborhood and Rock End Roads. During World War II, the Crobb Box Company operated an ammunition case factory on Neighborhood Road.

Main Street in Northeast Harbor, ca. 1980
Main Street in Northeast Harbor, ca. 1980

Item Contributed by
Northeast Harbor Library

Northeast Harbor was spared the devastation of the October 1947 Bar Harbor fire. However, the village has been far from immune to the impact of major fires. In December 1966, a fire erupted at Wallace’s Garage on the corner of Main Street and Summit Road. Five major buildings, and several smaller ones, burned. Wallace’s Garage, the Pastime Theater, the Hillcrest Market and Mrs. Flye’s Sandwich Shop were all lost.

In 1989, the bicentennial of the town of Mount Desert, Robert R. Pyle noted that “Northeast Harbor faces a graver threat today than in all its history…It is dying as a residential community.” In 1989, there were still two grocery stores in town but their stock was significantly reduced. There was only one gas station in Northeast Harbor, down from four. The last barber left town in the mid-1970s. The pharmacy closed in 1989. By the village’s bicentennial, many of the people who worked year-round in Northeast Harbor could no longer afford to live in the village.