Date: Sun, 17 Nov
1996 21:39:24 -0500
One of the dangers of reading a history of the island you live on is that it makes you want to trek out and find ruins of the things you are reading about.
After posting about the Egg Rock Lighthouse, I checked the sketch in my book and headed out to find the ruins of the Dorr homestead.
George Dorr is known as the "Father of Acadia" because he was instrumental in getting the U.S. Federal Government to accept the donated lands of Mount Desert Island and declaring it first a National Monument and then a National Park in 1919. He had to convince Congressmen that the island was not indeed a desert and that it was not so close to the arctic that no one would ever visit. He told selected Congressman with whom he had influence that he, George Dorr, swam in the ocean daily all year round. He never told them, however, that he was the only fool to do so or that he had to break through ice to swim in his saltwater swimming pool many days of the year.
George Dorr died at the age of 90 in 1944. He was virtually peniless at his death, living in the Caretaker's cottage of his estate, having used his fortune to buy up land to donate to the Acadia National Park. The homestead of the Dorr family, OldFarm, was built in 1876 by George Dorr's parents. It suvived the fire of 1947 but was torn down in 1951. Before his death George Dorr donated OldFarm to Acadia National Park.
Given this fascinating history, I set out this afternoon around 1:45 to find the ruins of OldFarm. I reminded myself that the sun would set at 4:00. I walked from home, crossed the golf course, headed down Cromwell Harbor Drive, and turned south on Highway 3. I was watching for a small gravel parking lot and a gate over a path marked "Fire Road, Do not Block."
I found it less than a mile south of Bar Harbor. I cheerfully headed down the path smiling at three adults, two children, and a dog who were just leaving the site after their walk.
I was keeping a sharp eye out for plantings and flat places where a mansion may have once stood. I took a left turning at the fork in the paths. Soon I came out on Compass Harbor. It appeared to be high tide. I cursed myself for not checking the tide chart before leaving home.
But, taking a chance, I scrambled down to the pebble beach and walked along on a heading that would have been hard to backtrack on if the tide was going to come in another foot. I scrambled up a headland to see the view out to sea. There lay Egg Rock itself, so long battered by the sea. Winter Harbor lay straight ahead past Ironbound Island. The breakwater, never completed, was being topped by the hide tide.
Luckily, there was a path on top of the headland so I did not need to go back down to the beach. I looked back to the harbor and realized that the cut granite boulders must have been what outlined Dorr's saltwater swimming pool at one time. Sure enough there were ruins of steps leading down to the pool.
-- to be continued.
Date: Sun, 17 Nov
1996 22:06:29 -0500
I followed a vague path to the north along Compass Harbor. I paused to watch a loon diving. I considered trying to imitate a loon call to see if I could get him to answer. But I had seen a bicycle leaning up against a tree. I didn't want to disturb the peace of whoever else was out and about.
I decided the ruins of Dorr's home could not be that direction. I headed back along the path, detouring to cross a stream further inland because it did not look safely jumpable in the same spot I had jumped it going in the opposite direction.
I spotted a vague path that cut through a space that looked as if it could have been a building site at one time. Along this path I spotted some large cedar trees that looked suspiciously like they could have been part of a planned landscaping job.
Aha! I found the ruins. All that is left is the herringbone pattern bricks of the covered terrace and the piazza. Huge granite steps led from the terrace toward the ocean. I followed them down until I could see that they did indeed lead toward the ruined saltwater pool.
Mindful of the time and the early setting of the sun, I turned to head back up the steps. What a sight. These ruined steps leading up through the woods to a ruined house. What it must have been like in its glory when people like Chester Arthur, Julia Ward Howe, Barrett Wendell, Weir Mitchell, Josiah Royce, E.L. Godkin, William James, and Oliver Wendell Holmes the elder would visit the Dorrs and watch plays staged on the lower lawn.
I followed a broad path out of the woods to a paved road. Alas, it was not the road I had come in on. But, having a good sense of direction and being able to see the sun, not yet gone behind Cadillac Mountain, I turned right and came out on Route 3 in a short distance. I passed a cottage which I thought was the famed Caretaker's Cottage but I was wrong about that. Checking the book upon returning home I realized it could not have been. I must make a return trip to see that.
I walked back to town thinking I would get a cappuccino and wander home. But I interpreted the hot flash I had as I entered town to be a sign that I should check the ice cream store instead. Indeed, the 50% sale was still on. So I traded my dollar for creamy chocolate chip ice cream on a sugar cone.
I ate my ice cream cone as I walked past the boarded up stores and the boarded up fountain thinking of Katherine, Natalie, and the summer so recently past. I reached home right around sunset. Another great day in Paradise.