Before the park and the rusticators, there were the painters, most notably those identified as belonging to the Hudson River School who seem to have been similarly inspired by Mount Desert Island. I’m leafing through this lovely book by John Wilmerding, The Artist’s Mount Desert. American Painters on the Maine Coast (1995), and am particularly drawn to the paintings of Frederic Edwin Church, who came to the island in the 1850s after Alvan Fisher and Thomas Cole “discovered” it for the artistic community in the 1830s and 1840s. Church captures the drama and the contrast of the island’s terrain, and its weather. On Mount Desert, it’s not “wait a minute” for the weather to change as in the rest of New England, but “wait a second” for the fog to roll in (on little cat feet).
Frederic Edwin Church, Fog off Mount Desert (Collection of John Wilmerding), 1850, and Coast Scene,Mount Desert (Sunrise off the Maine Coast) Wadsworth Athenaeum, 1863.
We had great weather during our trip but it was foggy most mornings and evenings. One day I traveled from a very sunny, almost hot Southwest Harbor to a very foggy (northeast) Bar Harbor in the space of a half-hour. The fog does amazing things to the island’s mountains, coast, and offshore islands, which you can see by the sequence of photographs below, particularly those taken from the deck of the Margaret Todd, a replica cargo schooner moored in Bar Harbor, on which we took a sunset cruise. There’s also a few buildings below, but not many; I’ve got to go back to Mount Desert for houses and gardens without (most of) my camping companions. I would not presume to characterize the (remaining) architectural landscape of Bar Harbor, for three reasons: 1) there was a devastating fire in 1947 which leveled much of downtown (67 summer cottages, five hotels, 170 year-round homes); 2) I didn’t really have enough time for an assessment, due to the demands of camping; and 3) this is the territory of the Downeast Dilettante. However, I will say that it’s a little sad to walk along the Shore Path and see only one Gilded Era “cottage”, the Breakwater or Atlantique estate of John Innes Kane, great-grandson of John Jacob Astor. I grew up along a similar path far to the south but still in Maine, lined with many similar contemporary cottages.
Breakwater from the Shore Path and the deck of the Margaret Todd, a Seal Harbor chapel and cottage, houses and bridge in Somesville:
And now for the fog: rolling into various Mount Desert harbors, and engulfing one of the Porcupine (I think it’s Bald Porcupine) islands in Bar Harbor in a matter of moments. And then it dissipated just as quickly.
And then sunset, a few more moments later.
August 7th, 2013 at 8:55 am
Those paintings look like photos, or vice versa.
August 7th, 2013 at 9:31 am
Gorgeous pictures! As a former inhabitant of Salem, MA I have to say I miss the water most of all. This was like a nice visit back.
August 7th, 2013 at 9:39 am
Thanks—Well actually these particular pictures are of Maine, but as you well know, we have water here in Salem too!
August 7th, 2013 at 10:12 am
It’s what I miss about all of New England. By the way,
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August 7th, 2013 at 12:01 pm
Haha, you, and your keen eye are welcome on my territory any time, fear not. It is a pity about the Shore Path—I’ve watched a dozen of the great cottages that lined it in my childhood disappear since then—in addition to being shortened—beyond still stand three estates no longer viewable. Two doors north of Breakwater (I refuse to call it Atlantique), an increasingly shabby wooden fence marks Beatrix Farrand’s former Reef Point estate, and immediately to the south, two small buildings, one a former private bowling alley are the remaining wings of Evalyn Walsh (Hope Diamond) McLean’s ‘Briarcliffe’ (http://thedowneastdilettante.blogspot.com/2010/02/mystery-house.html).
Breakwater, incidentally, was also the childhood summer home of Mrs. Kane’s great-niece, the famed Washington saloniste Susan Mary Alsop. later, in my 20’s, in great decay, it was the scene of some very louche parties…
Wonderful photos of the Porcupines—you’ve just inspired me to do a post.
One minor correction: The chapel, designed by Grosvenor Atterbury, is in Seal Harbor, not Northeast 🙂
August 7th, 2013 at 12:17 pm
Thank you! And what kind of chapel is it? No sign at all. Love it. Atterbury certainly had his pick of commissions on MDI
August 7th, 2013 at 2:36 pm
It was Congregational, but has been in residential use for some years now.
July 31st, 2015 at 5:53 am
Thanks for so many great photos. They make me miss MDI!