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Mount Desert Island: Shaped by Nature

The Old House (circa 1820-2013)

Painting of Asticou Circa 1860-1870
Painting of Asticou Circa 1860-1870

Item Contributed by
Northeast Harbor Library

The Old House built, by A.C. Savage’s parents, John II and Climena, was one example of the Asticou dwellings that should have been built on wheels. It was originally built and sited around 1820 near the northeast corner of the present-day Asticou Inn and used as the first permanent Savage family home.

According to writings by A.C. Savage’s grandson Charles K. Savage (1903-1979) who owned and operated the Asticou Inn properties between 1922-1963, the Old House, like many New England farm houses of the era, originally had a shed and barn attached to it. Later, around 1883, the barn and shed were demolished and the Old House was swung around and relocated westward to make room for the first Asticou Inn structure built in 1883.

It was moved one more time southward down the hill and towards Northeast Harbor as the Inn expanded. During this time, 1883-1900, it was converted for use as help-house lodging for the female employees of the Asticou Inn.

The above picture shows Asticou Inn employees in front of the Old House when it was located near/below the present day Asticou Inn. Among those pictured – George A. Savage (1863-1922, son of A.C. and Emily Savage, and father of Charles K. Savage) is the man sitting on the grass at the left in the front row. His wife, Mabelle Strout Savage, is the left-most woman standing on the porch with her right arm leaning on the porch post.

A third and final move of the Old House occurred around 1900 at the time the original Asticou Inn burned in early September 1900 and the “new” Asticou Inn, which still stands today in 2013, designed by A.C. and Emily Savage’s architect son Fred L. Savage (1861-1924), was built and opened for the 1901 season. During this third move, the Old House was moved North a good distance across present day Route 3 and sited to an out-back location off Asticou Way where it stood until it was torn down on February 22, 2013, after standing intact for almost 200 years. From the early 1900s to approximately 1975, the Old House was occupied in summers by the Phillips line of Savage descendants.

As many year-round families on Mount Desert Island still do to this day, members of the Phillips and Savage families would often rent out their bigger primary year-round homes to summer residents to bring in additional income. They would relocate their families to smaller, more humble dwellings, such as the Old House, in the summer.

This annual moving and downsizing must certainly have been a challenge. The larger homes would need to be cleaned, personal belongings stored away and readied for summer guests. Usually the whole family, including children, pitched in to help with the cleaning and seasonal move-in, move-out. Then, during the hotter months, siblings and parents must literally at times have been on top of one another in close quarters.

Augustus D. “Gus” Phillips (1898-1975), a grandson of A.C. and Emily Savage, eventually inherited the Old House. Gus, his wife Mary and their 5 children also owned and lived most of the year in a large 3,200 sq ft, 5-bedroom, 3-bath, shingle-styled, two-story home designed by his uncle, Fred Savage, which is still located at 2 Asticou Hill Trail on the corner of Asticou Way and Asticou Hill trail.

Houses at Asticou from the Scrapbook of Mary L.
Houses at Asticou from the Scrapbook of Mary L. "Mame" Savage

Item Contributed by
Northeast Harbor Library

Their seasonal move involved seven family members leaving this relatively palatial home and de-camping to the 2-bedroom, 1-bath Old House.