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Northeast Harbor: From Rustic to Rusticators

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Item 21119

Manchester Point, Northeast Harbor, ca. 1945

Manchester Point, Northeast Harbor, ca. 1945 / Great Harbor Maritime Museum

The first family to settle at what is now Northeast Harbor was John Manchester, his wife Comfort, and son John in 1775. The Manchesters came from Machias where the elder John served in the militia. He served in at least three different groups while in the militia, and family lore says he was active in the capture of the British vessel Margaretta. When he arrived at Northeast Harbor, it was called Sand Point because people came there to get sand to be used as an ingredient in mortar for foundations. At some point in his first few years in his new home, after John had gone out hunting and his family had left the house to do some work nearby, a British ship came and anchored off the Manchester house. The British came ashore, drove his cattle and oxen to the shore, killed and butchered the animals, took all the provisions from the house, then smashed the dishes. All that remained after the British left were the clothes on the backs of the Manchesters, John Manchester's musket, their house, and one milk cow that had wandered off into the woods. It must have seemed like a Godsend when they noticed a moose swimming across Somes Sound. Mr. and Mrs. Manchester got into their canoe and Mr. Manchester used his musket to shoot the animal, which would provide a great deal of food to survive the winter when supplemented with shellfish and other plants.

This picture shows Manchester Point, where John Manchester built his original house, in the 1940s. The house on the point is Indian Head, built by Ansel Manchester, great-grandson of the original John Manchester. In the background is Fernald Point, where the Jesuits landed in 1613.

 

Item 21407

Old Mill on Mt. Desert Island, ca. 1890

Old Mill on Mt. Desert Island, ca. 1890 / Trenton Cemetery & Keeping Society

About ten years after the arrival of the Manchesters, Samuel Hadlock arrived at Sand Point with his children and three nieces. He established a lumber mill at Wasgatt Cove, over what is now called the Mill Brook. Hadlock was a successful businessman and eventually built a house that was valued at $2000. In 1789, Samuel Hadlock murdered Eliab Gott after Hadlock had fought with a number of other men in the village, as well as assaulting Comfort Manchester. This detail was seldom talked about for the next two hundred years, but it has been a topic of interest in the last decade, and recent research has uncovered much information about the murder, and those involved. Hadlock was executed in 1790 in Pownelboro for his actions, and his descendants stayed in the area for a few years afterwards. But after the Hadlock house burned in 1797, and the mill washed down stream in 1798, Samuel Hadlock Jr. left Northeast Harbor.

Local historians are unsure of the location of this mill, which was one of many that were constructed on Mt. Desert Island in the late 18th century.

 

Item 21075

Pogey press, Mount Desert, ca. 1850

Pogey press, Mount Desert, ca. 1850 / Great Harbor Maritime Museum

Although many of the early families of Mt. Desert Island were self sufficient farmers, many also carried special talents that provided additional income for the families. Samuel Hadlock came as a lumber man, William Roberts was a carpenter and cooper, and many others were esteemed seamen. From the 1830s on for about four decades, the pogey industry provided a booming business for Northeast Harbor men. Pogies (also called porgies) were small oily fish that were caught, cooked, then put into a press and squeezed for their oil. The leftovers were used as fertilizer. In Abram Gilpatrick's memoirs he recalls cast very large iron kettles in the back yards of many people in town to cook the pogies. Sometime in the 1820s, brothers James and Samuel Gilpatrick revived the milling tradition at Wasgatt Cove, milling the wood to construct their houses, as well as other buildings. Samuel Gilpatrick also owned the mill at Jordan Pond, where he lived and worked from Monday through Saturday, then came home on Sunday. He sold the Jordan Pond mill in 1841. Squire Daniel Kimball built a prosperous store near the Clifton Dock beach in the 1850s or 60s. His store was used by many of the coasting schooners from Northeast Harbor and also those sailing by. In the latter part of the 19th century, a new business came to Northeast Harbor and proved quite lucrative. The business of catering to rusticators would shape Northeast Harbor into a very different town. This is a pogey press that probably came from the Smallidge house on Smallidge Point. It would be attached to a barrel and a large flat piece would be placed under the bottom. It would then be screwed, increasing the length of the press and squeezing the oil out of the fish.

 

Item 21186

Somes Sound, Mt. Desert Island, ca.1900

Somes Sound, Mt. Desert Island, ca.1900 / Great Harbor Maritime Museum

Beginning in the 1840s, artists began arriving at Northeast Harbor to enjoy the beauty and create artwork to sell in the cities. In 1855, Fitz Henry Lane came to Mt. Desert Island aboard the General Gates. Lane is the earliest artist that is known to have visited Northeast Harbor, although it is likely that Thomas Cole and Frederick Church visited in 1844 and 1850 respectively. A sketch, currently in the collection of the Cape Ann Historical Association entitled "North East Harbor, Mount Desert, Aug. 1850," provides proof of Lane's visit to Northeast Harbor. Though sometimes contested, it is commonly believed that the artwork produced by these early painters is what drew the original rusticators to the Island, to witness the spectacular scenery for themselves.

 

Item 21053

Charles W. Eliot, Mount Desert, 1904

Charles W. Eliot, Mount Desert, 1904 / Great Harbor Maritime Museum

In his essay, "Memories of a Lifetime," A.C. Savage says, "In 1870 we began taking summer boarders and I may say that we were the first house to open its doors to 'Rusticators' at Northeast Harbor. Among our first guests were Commodore Fyffe and family, and some noted artists, Holligsworth, Brown and others." At that same time, Squire Daniel Kimball also began opening his house to take in rusticators. Thus began the advent of summer people.

In 1880, the first summer people came to Northeast Harbor to stay for the season. Charles W. Eliot, Jr. came with some peers from Harvard and set up the Champlain Society. Eliot's father, Charles W. Eliot, was the President of Harvard. The younger Eliot came and set up tents just south of where the lumber mill had been and studied the scientific aspects of the Island. He later told his father that this was where they should have a summer house, and within a year, their house, The Ancestral was completed. Also arriving in 1880 were Episcopal Bishop William Crosswell Doane, who came and stayed with Squire Kimball, and Joseph Henry Curtis who purchased the old Thomas Wasgatt house on the east side of the harbor and renovated it. Bishop Doane constructed his house, Magnum Donum, on land sold to him by Daniel Kimball the following winter, and lived it in the next summer. Mrs. Carl E. Kelley, in her paper about these early rusticators says "they came here for peace and rest and to seek inspiration from the natural beauty of the sea and hills."

 

Item 21052

Rock End Hotel Area, Northeast Harbor, ca. 1886

Rock End Hotel Area, Northeast Harbor, ca. 1886 / Great Harbor Maritime Museum

With the coming of the summer people and the realization of the potential profits that could be gained from them, hotels began springing up in town. 1883 saw the construction of the Asticou Inn and the Roberts House, both at the head of the harbor, run by A.C. Savage and William Roberts, respectively. The Rock End Hotel was built by Herman L. Savage, son of A.C. Savage, in 1884; and in 1886 Squire Kimball built the Kimball House. Eventually the town also had the Indian Head, the Clifton House, the Harbourside Inn, and the Gaynor Hotel.

Shown here is the Rock End Hotel and the Wedge, built by Herman Savage, in the mid-1880s

 

Item 21068

Harbourside, Northeast Harbor, 1903

Harbourside, Northeast Harbor, 1903 / Great Harbor Maritime Museum

It wasn't only the local people who realized the potential profit to be made from these newcomers. Even some of the entrepreneurial summer people were quick to make a dollar. In 1890, James Terry Gardiner and a partner named Frank Wiswell purchased most of the western side of the harbor and began constructing the Harbourside community. They constructed six cottages and two additional buildings to serve as an inn and dining facilities for the cottages, all of which were designed by Fred L. Savage, a local man and esteemed architect. There were purposely no kitchens in the houses so the people would all go to the Harbourside Inn for their meals. Later on, more houses were constructed in that area, and many kitchens were added. At the point when the Harbourside community was being constructed, it was often referred to as Shingleville because of the abundance of shingle-styled houses for which Savage was noted.

 

Item 21072

Announcement for the Opening of St. Mary's By the Sea, 1882

Announcement for the Opening of St. Mary's By the Sea, 1882 / Great Harbor Maritime Museum

As the population of the village increased through the 1880s, both summer and year ?round residents realized the need for a village church. Until the 1880s, diligent churchgoers would travel by boat to Southwest Harbor and then walk to church. In 1792, the first church was established at Southwest Harbor, and churches were later built at Manset, Center and Beech Hill. In 1881, after holding services in the living room of Squire Kimball's house, as well as his own, Bishop Doane initiated the concept of building a church at Northeast Harbor. On land donated by Stephen Smallidge and Margaret Doane, the slab chapel was constructed. It was called the slab chapel because it was constructed of large slabs of wood and left rustic. This church was originally thought of as non-denominational, however, when the Bishop declared it to be of the "one true church," (Episcopalian) some of the parishioners left to form their own church. In 1886, this group of people began to worship in the second school in Northeast Harbor, where Wadsworth Park is now. In 1889, on land donated by Samuel Gilpatrick, and with subscriptions of thirty-five local residents and sixty-five summer residents, the Union Church was constructed. The Baptists conducted services there after they formed a group in 1893 and this continued as the primary denomination of many local residents into the 1920's. Prior to St. Ignatious Catholic Church being constructed in 1895, the Catholics also held services at the Union Church. In 1899, Bishop Doane recognized the need for a larger Episcopal Church and began lobbying to build a new church. After much deliberation and multiple sets of plans, the new church was finished in 1902. At that point the Episcopalians also had a Parish House and Rectory built on land donated by Daniel Kimball.

 

Item 21180

Northeast Harbor Fleet Race, ca. 1930

Northeast Harbor Fleet Race, ca. 1930 / Great Harbor Maritime Museum

The rapidly growing population of summer residents dictated the need to begin constructing amenities to modernize and increase the joy of the summer for the summer colony. Mrs. James Gardiner devised the swimming pool to provide an appropriate pastime for the summer residents. This was the first organization not to allow local residents to join. The summer residents failed to realize the impact of neap tides, and the local residents never mentioned this shortcoming, so an electric pump had to be installed to maintain a constant water level. In 1897, Bishop Doane along with Samuel Eliot and James Terry Gardiner established the Village Improvement Society "to make Northeast Harbor a desirable summer place." They furthered and helped in the direction of the swimming pool, the golf course, and the tennis club. The Village Improvement Society was primarily managed by summer people, but a few local residents were on the board of directors though not invited to join in on the activities. This proved difficult when some summer residents decided to stay in Northeast Harbor in the winter and the rules of the organizations needed to be changed. However, at least one person was exiled from the rolls of these clubs for this reason. In the early 20th century, the Northeast Harbor Fleet was established and though it was exclusive in the beginning, local residents have since been allowed to join.

 

Item 21074

Northeast Harbor school bell, ca. 1881

Northeast Harbor school bell, ca. 1881 / Great Harbor Maritime Museum

Though there were many things meant primarily for the summer residents of Northeast Harbor, residents like Daniel Coit Gilman made improvements to benefit the local people. One of Gilman's main interests was the education of the children in Northeast Harbor; a sensible concern, as he was the first president of Johns Hopkins University. Although Northeast Harbor did have a school by 1870, education was not especially common past elementary school. The original school was constructed on the southern end of Millbrook Road. It had at least eleven students in 1870 and was used until 1881 when the new school was built. At that point, as was common with old buildings, it was given a new purpose and a new location. In 1881, a new school was built at the present Wadsworth Park. This school served for a number of years and was also used in 1888 as a Free High School, taught by a Mr. W.W.A. Heath of Seal Cove. Selection of high school students wasn't very specific as there were high school students that were eight years old. This school only lasted eight years, at which point it was moved onto Main Street and turned into a livery. Fred Savage designed a new school in 1896, but it was not used regularly. In 1905, Daniel Coit Gilman and Dr. William R. Huntington arranged a special town meeting, spoke before the Selectmen, and said that that the summer residents would be willing to have taxes raised for the "general welfare," meaning more consistent high school education. This prompted a more regular education schedule beginning in 1906. The school was enlarged in 1907 and named Gilman High School in honor of Daniel Coit Gilman.

This is the bell from the second school in Northeast Harbor.

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Item 21336

Neighborhood House, Northeast Harbor

Neighborhood House, Northeast Harbor / Great Harbor Maritime Museum

Gilman was not only interested in education. He also initiated the Northeast Harbor Library and Reading Room, and was instrumental in the organization of the Neighborhood House. Gilman "realized the need of a social meeting place throughout the year, where books, games, and lectures could be enjoyed and to this cause he gave liberally of his time and money." After the Neighborhood House was constructed, Miss Eleanor Blodgett donated all the furnishings for the new building.

 

Item 21177

Northeast Harbor, ca. 1950

Northeast Harbor, ca. 1950 / Great Harbor Maritime Museum

Since the arrival of the summer people in 1880, Northeast Harbor has changed significantly. Large summer houses were constructed for the summer people, and many houses were built for local residents. Without the influence of the summer people, it is unlikely that Northeast Harbor would have developed into the town it is today. Probably many aspects taken for granted today, such as running water and modern education, would have eventually come to town, but it was certainly the summer people who pressed for their implementation early on and provided a great deal of financial support in attaining them. The summer people of today, much like their predecessors, continue to provide a sizable amount of income for many local residents, as well as countless local organizations. In closing, it is safe to say that the Northeast Harbor known and loved today is a result of the influence of the summer people, and the village could not maintain itself without them.

 

 

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