Recently, we came upon this letter, written by Senator James G. Blaine, at auction. The subject is unremarkable, a brief note of thanks to one Theo F Reed for an unspecified favor. The significance of this particular item is that it was penned while Blaine was living at Ash Cottage during his presidential run. It almost certainly would have been written in his study at the home, where he spent considerable time answering “cords” of correspondence. Thankfully, few people need to have Blaine memorabilia these days so we were able to acquire the letter for the inn. After 138 years, we are delighted to return this small piece of history to the Mira Monte so that we may better tell the story of the many people who have stayed within its walls. We hope to have the letter on display soon. The note reads:
August 13, 1884
Bar Harbor, Maine
Theo F Reed, Esq.
Spring Valley, N.Y.
I thank you for your kind favor of the 1st instant, and I return the enclosure as requested.
Very truly yours
James G. Blaine
Mt Desert Island’s popular shuttle bus, the Island Explorer, is back for the season! After running on a limited schedule last year, operations are now back in full swing. Most routes begin at the Village Green, just a short walk from the Mira Monte. The Explorer offers visitors the opportunity to stop at the most popular attractions in Acadia and Mt Desert Island without having to battle the island’s notorious summer traffic. For more information on the shuttle and schedules, click the following link: Island Explorer Shuttle
These little guys look innocent enough, maybe even cute in a caterpillar kind of way. You might even be tempted to pick one up and let it crawl around a bit. Be forewarned that if you do it will likely mean the beginning of weeks of misery. This is the caterpillar of the brown tail moth, an invasive species commonly seen in Maine in the spring and summer. In addition to devouring the leaves of local deciduous trees, the thing that makes these caterpillars so troublesome is that their hairs are filled with a toxin that can cause severe itching and pain similar to that of a poison ivy rash. The hairs can also become airborne and drop from trees onto unsuspecting travelers. Breathing the hairs can cause respiratory distress and require medical attention. Over the counter remedies such as hydrocortisone, diphenhydramine, and lidocaine offer some relief, but there is no cure for the caterpillar toxin and prevention is the best way to avoid the dreaded itch. Stay clear of the caterpillars and their nests which take the form of a tangled, tent-like web woven between the branches of trees and shrubs. Thankfully, caterpillar encounters and severe reactions to the caterpillar toxin are relatively rare and shouldn’t dissuade anyone from visiting Acadia this season. Due caution will help to ensure that your visit remains pleasant and itch-free.
Thank you to all our guests for helping make Mira Monte a Trip Advisor “Traveler’s Choice” for the third year in a row! Only the top 10% of all hotels are accorded this distinction, and we are grateful to all who have joined us through the years.
We’ve noticed an alarming trend among Bar Harbor’s Bed and Breakfasts over the past year. Many independent inns have been bought out by large hotel companies and have closed their kitchens and eliminated breakfast service completely. We understand why they’ve done this; it’s a whole lot less expensive for them and it makes their businesses much easier to run. We think that’s just wrong. At the Mira Monte we still believe in providing the home-style hospitality that you’ve come to expect from a B&B. Instead of taking breakfast away, we’re investing in a brand-new professional kitchen so that we can bring you an even better breakfast experience during the coming seasons. Our breakfasts are hot, upscale and served at the table. From time to time, we’ll update you on our progress here in our blog- stay tuned!
One of Bar Harbor’s more colorful summer denizens was New York philantropist and socialite Peter Marie. His family, having made it’s fortune in banking, enabled Marie pursue a life of leisure relatively early in life. The consummate bon vivant, Marie was host to a variety of social activities throughout the summer colony. One of these, a ladie’s putting contest, was a regular event that was held on the back lawn of Mira Monte. The accompanying photo shows one such competition, circa 1900. These events were embued with all the pageantry of the guilded age- note the banners and floral garlands surrounding the green and the imported palms decorating the gallery. The ladies in the competition are seen elegantly attired in the latest 19th century “sportswear”.
Mira Monte History: In 1890, eminent Philadelphia physician and naturalist Henry C. Chapman bought the Ash Cottage from Orlando Ash to use as a permanent summer residence. Among his many distinctions, Dr. Chapman had been Professor of Medicine and Medical Jurisprudence at Jefferson Medical College and served as curator of Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences from 1875 until his death. Upon purchasing the cottage, Dr. Chapman and his wife Hannah added the Greek portico and columns that now surround the porch and renamed their estate Mira Monte, meaning “behold the mountains”.
Mrs. Chapman enjoyed entertaining, and Mira Monte was to become something of a social hub in those days. While not unknown to the society pages of the era, Dr. Chapman is remembered in Bar Harbor as first and foremost a humble and amiable man of science who “endeavored in every way in his power to minimize the distinction between the summer colony and the year-round residents” of the village. As recalled in memorium in the Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences:
“Here for nearly thirty years he pursued his studies of the flora and fauna of Mt. Desert island, the latter in a little laboratory on the water’s edge. Here the fishermen, all his devoted friends, brought whatever of interest they succeeded in securing from the waters.”
Chapman was also to play an active role in the civic life of the town and became a director of the local library.
After Dr. Chapman’s sudden death at the home in 1908, likely from a gastric ulcer, his widow continued in the role of hostess until her passing on Christmas day, 1931, exactly 90 years ago.
Each year we continue to discover new details that add to the rich history of the Mira Monte. New research by Bar Harbor Historian Brian Armstrong has revealed that the inn was the summer home of one of the preeminent politicians of the gilded age, James G Blaine, during the presidential campaign of 1884 . Though little discussed today outside academic circles, he was a household name to his contemporaries. Nicknamed “the plumed knight” Blaine held numerous public offices throughout his long and storied career including speaker of the house, United States senator and US secretary of state. A perennial presidential favorite, Blaine eventually secured the Republican nomination in 1884, the very year that he signed the lease for the Mira Monte. The accompanying newspaper illustration from this period depicts Blaine enjoying a leisurely buckboard ride. Amid the convivial chitchat of his companions, Blaine appears resolute, as if in contemplation of the impending battle. The inset captioned “Blaine’s Cottage” shows Mira Monte as it appeared in Blaine’s time; the profile of the house with it’s distinctive stacked bay windows and turret-like dormer easily recognizable despite the passage of time. Ultimately, the object of Blaine’s greatest aspiration was not to be his; following a bitter and scandal plagued campaign, Blaine lost the election to Grover Cleveland by a mere one quarter of one percent of the popular vote.
The Governor’s office has released new, less-restrictive guidance for out-of-state visitors with regard to COVID-19 restrictions:
“As of May 1, 2021, Maine no longer requires proof of a negative test or quarantine for travelers to the state. If one or more states see a spike in cases of highly contagious COVID-19 variants, Maine will apply its test or quarantine requirement to travelers to and from that state. The Maine CDC will publicly announce any such states when they are identified.” This means that for now, we will no longer be requiring a written attestation upon check-in. We and all of the shops and restaurants here in Bar Harbor look forward the return of a semblance of normacy following a long hiatus and await your visit!