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Library & Suggested Reading

All books mentioned below are kept in our library for the enjoyment of our guests… if you happen to find one of these books missing, please do let us know!

Charles Tracy: Tracey Log Book (1855)

The Tracy Log Book is our favorite book about Mount Desert Island. The book is comprised of the journal entries of Charles Tracy—a prominent New York lawyer—recorded during a trip made to Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island in 1855. Mr. Tracy visited with his family as well as the landscape painter Frederick Edwin Church, and the group spent a month exploring the Island, including many now well-known spots like Schooner Head and The Precipice. Mr. Tracy was a skilled writer, making his descriptions of local scenery as beautiful as they are fascinating (what’s most fascinating, arguably, is how little many areas seem to have changed over the past century and a half). Mr. Tracy’s daughter Frances would later marry John Pierpont Morgan, Sr. of banking fame and fortune, and their affinity for the area helped promote Bar Harbor’s prominence in “Gilded Age” America.

Beatrix Farrand: The Bulletins of Reef Point Garden

Beatrix Farrand, born in the 1870s, was a noted landscape architect who for many years maintained an estate, Reef Point, on Bar Harbor’s Shore Path. Farrand is noted for commissions that include the White House, and though only a smattering of her works survive to this day her work can still be seen right here on Mount Desert Island at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden. The Bulletins of Reef Point Garden cover 10 years of publication by Farrand on various matters of garden design and maintenance; those interested in the subject may also enjoy visiting the Thuya and Asticou Azalea gardens in Northeast Harbor, two downright gorgeous spots just a short drive from Bar Harbor where many of the plants from Reef Point were transferred.

David Nasaw: Andrew Carnegie

At about 800 pages in length David Nasaw’s detailed recollection of the life and times of steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie is somewhat of an undertaking. That said, the text is broken up into 42 chapters which can be picked at individually–for example, several chapters provide a look at the issue of labor relations during a formative period of the industrial economy, while a later chapter details the transaction that created US Steel—the world’s first billion-dollar company—and briefly made Carnegie the wealthiest person alive (he was soon overtaken by John D. Rockefeller, whose family’s donations of land comprise much of Acadia National Park). Additionally, those interested in Carnegie’s philanthropic ventures will be pleased to discover a great deal of insight into his motives and manner of giving. It is noteworthy that, somehow, Carnegie managed to give away nearly all his money in his own lifetime–rather a tall task, as his assets amounted to something of rough equivalence to a few hundred billion 2019 dollars.

Additionally, Carnegie was good friends with James G. Blaine, probably the most influential politician in Maine’s history. Blaine’s political career began rather humbly in the Maine House of Representatives and yet he very nearly won the presidency in 1884, losing the election narrowly to Grover Cleveland of New York. Carnegie was a master of cultivating key relationships in the context of his business ventures so it’s no surprise he took a liking to a politician as influential and well connected as Blaine, who served as Secretary of State under three different Presidents. Carnegie was a world traveler and visited Blaine in Bar Harbor, where Blaine owned the palatial Stanwood Cottage, which once stood only a mile or two from The Inn on Mount Desert.

David Rockefeller, Sr.: Memoirs

David Rockefeller’s Memoirs are 500-some pages on just about every topic under the sun, including but certainly not limited to Finance, Fine Art, Economics, Sailing, Foreign Relations, Politics, Philanthropy, and History. And of course Bar Harbor is the ideal place to take it all in, as the Rockefellers have such close ties to the area (land donated by the Rockefellers is largely what comprises Acadia National Park itself, and David throughout his life spent a great deal of time on Mount Desert Island and maintained an estate called Ringing Point in Seal Harbor).

Mr. Rockefeller’s 101 years of life were largely devoted to developing relationships with his fellow man. He assigned immense value to these relationships and built them over time, which helped him stay abreast of just about everything that went on in the world around him. He was involved in innumerable businesses, committees, and quasi-public initiatives, and the number of hats he wore is impressive. While one’s instinct may be to assume David was simply handed everything on a silver platter and given free rein on account of his last name, this is certainly not the case—Mr. Rockefeller earned a PHD in economics and his commentary on the economic issues of his day makes it quite clear the degree was well earned. In fact, throughout the book he proves himself to be something of a renaissance man with a broad base of knowledge and a sharp intellect that never seemed to fade (Memoirs was written when he was in his eighties). Furthermore, he always felt strongly that the world economy would steadily over time become more and more global in scope, and time has proven this important insight to have been very much correct (which is of note as this was a belief that, while certainly not radical, was not uniform amongst all his contemporaries). Yet at the same time Mr. Rockefeller does not hide from his last name or the unique opportunities it afforded him, and so his overall perspective generally comes across as very much down to earth.

While the book is probably too long to take in in its entirety during the average trip to Bar Harbor, it’s not to worry—many individual chapters are concentrated sufficiently enough that they can stand independently of the rest of the book. Specifically I would suggest chapter 3, Childhood, which details David’s youth and his summers spent on Mount Desert Island. His juxtaposition of Bar Harbor and Seal Harbor in the early 1900s is charming and somewhat ironic, as Seal Harbor is now more well-known for its mega-wealthy residents.

I also suggest chapters 17 through 20, which break down region by region David’s involvement in US foreign relations throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Anyone even remotely interested in politics, geopolitical history, the global economy, or important world affairs of the mid to late 1900s will find chapters 17 through 20 intensely interesting.

Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching

This particular selection has no explicit link to Bar Harbor, however the author’s heavy use of natural imagery is likely to be particularly resonant to one who finds oneself immersed in the wonder of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park. Take, for example, excerpts such as, “The highest excellence is like that of water. The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things, and in its occupying, without striving, the low place which all men dislike. Hence water is near to the Tao.” Perusing the Tao Te Ching after a trip to a quiet spot like Hunter’s Beach or Seawall can make for a quite pleasant afternoon!

G. W. Helfrich & Gladys O’Neil: Lost Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor’s ascent to Gilded Age destination included the construction of a great many grand hotels and summer “cottages,” many of which were tragically lost in the great fire of 1947. While some of the structures still stand—some can be viewed on West Street and along The Shore Path, for example—Lost Bar Harbor recaps a much broader assortment and the stories that go along with them (often more grand than even the palatial structures themselves). For those who read lost Bar Harbor and find themselves feeling enthusiastic about Gilded Age shingle style architecture a Nature Cruise may be in order, because the best way to view these oceanfront properties is, of course, from the ocean.

Ann Rockefeller Roberts: Mr. Rockefeller’s Roads

Mount Desert Island’s carriage road system—approximately 60 miles of crushed stone roads, mostly through Acadia National Park—are a legacy of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who thoughtfully built upon his father’s love of landscape architecture and carriage rides to carefully craft a spectacular system of passages and bridges offering access to some of the Island’s most gorgeous locales. Locals and visitors alike enjoy the carriage roads all year round, and those who care to understand a little more about the process behind creating the roads will be interested in reading this story.

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