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
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, Mrs. Hannah Chapman, wife of eminent Philadelphia physician and naturalist Dr. Henry C. Chapman, bought the Ash Cottage from Orlando Ash to use as a permanent summer residence. Interestingly, title to the home was held in Mrs. Chapman’s name alone, a rare occurance prior to the turn of the century. Henry Chapman had been Professor of Medicine and Medical Jurisprudence at Jefferson Medical College and served as a director of Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences from 1875 until his death. Upon purchasing the cottage, the Chapmans 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, particularly for members of Philadelphia’s high society. An article in the society pages of the Philadelphia Enquirer describes a tea given at Mira Monte as the “most lavish social event of the season” at which Mrs. Chapman and the Countess de Laugier-Villars poured. While not unknown to the society pages himself, 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, Hannah continued in the role of hostess until her passing on Christmas day, 1931, exactly 90 years ago.