Mira Monte History Re-Discovered

When we first arrived at the MIra Monte, we never suspected that our unassuming cottage on Mt Desert Street would belie such rich history. If you’ve followed our blog, you already know what recent research has brought to light. Now our local paper, the Mount Desert Islander is sharing the story of the inn with the wider community: Mira Monte’s Lost History

Is the Mira Monte Ha-Ha-Haunted?

With Halloween fast approaching, we tend to get this question quite a bit. We hate to dissappoint, but in a word, no. Well, that is, mostly no…

The Mira Monte has always resonated with the sounds of happy vacationers. Nary a specter, it seems, would dare to intrude upon our festive holiday makers. If there are any spirits here, they seem to us a very private and well-behaved bunch indeed. Then again, over the years several former staff members and guests have described having a decidedly different take on things:

One long-time caretaker who spent winters alone at the house claimed to have heard heavy footsteps and other strange noises emanating from the vacant floor above.

An erstwhile cook who worked in the kitchen in the wee hours before dawn described being greeted regularly by a shy little ghost boy peering at her from the kitchen door… and of hearing the quiet laughter of children emanating from the empty dining room.

A recent guest, a self-described psychic medium, emphatically reported encountering numerous spirits during her visit, including a 19th century housekeeper keeping vigil at the top of the stairs and another “more contemporary” woman, who she took to be a former owner, in the parlor.

A live-in housekeeper turned off the lights to her room before retiring for the night. At 2 AM she awoke with a start- the light to her closet was on and the door ajar.

So, is the Mira Monte haunted? Or are all the tales simply a case of imagination run amok, piqued by this somber time of year when chill winds rustle withered leaves and shadows fall long across the land? So much history has transpired at the Mira Monte and so many people have resided within it’s walls- is it at all possible that some former residents never left? We have our opinion, what about you?

Building a Better Breakfast!

Our new professional kitchen has enabled us to offer a range of breakfast options that were never before possible! Shown here is our Char-Broiled Pork Chop with Grilled Polenta and Rainbow Chard.

The Parlor

We love our artists- we think you nailed it! Thank you for the lovely sketch JC and Jane- you’ve made our day!

Blaine Letter Returns Home

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:

Personal

August 13, 1884
Bar Harbor, Maine

Theo F Reed, Esq.
Spring Valley, N.Y.

Dear Fr-

I thank you for your kind favor of the 1st instant, and I return the enclosure as requested.

Very truly yours

James G. Blaine

Peter Marie

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”.

Henry Cadwalader Chapman

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.

Mira Monte’s “Almost” President

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.

Monty Presents: “Talk Like a Mainah”

Monty the Beaver is our resident mascot, and he’s been after his new guests about the funny way they talk:  “Yah gotta talk like a real Mainah if yah wanna fit in” he says….  so he’s put together this little guide to help you get started:

Words
Ahwah = 60 minutes, amount of time it takes to find a parking spot in downtown Bar Harbor in the summer.
Ayuh or Yuuh = Yes, yup, yep, uh-huh, “eh?”.
Bah Habbah = Bar Harbor, best place in the world to visit, even better place to live.
Bangah = Bangor, second largest city in Maine, closest city to Bar Harbor that has a Sams Club.
Beans = sportswear and sporting goods company LL Bean, the only Maine company known outside of Maine.
Bettah = Better, should, oughtta, opposite of worsah.
Bug = Lobster, spiny shellfish that turns red when you boil it, tourist food.
Cah = Automobile, collection device for parking tickets in downtown Bar Harbor.
Californier = California, where Hollywood is.
Centah = Center, what’s inside the outside.
‘Chout = Watch Out, look out, don’t be stupid.
Chowdah = Chowder, a thick white soup with potatoes, may contain lobster or clams but mostly potatoes.
Crittah = Creature, particularly those that burrow in your yard, live under your house, or have babies in your attic.
Cunnin’ = Cute, particularly when referring to crittahs.
Deah = Deer, furry, antlered garden-eating animals that own the town, or the girlfriend that owns you.
Finest Kind = The best, how Mainers say “da kine”.
Maahden’s = Mardens, a Maine junk store where everyone shops but no one admits to going.
Mainah= Mainer, anyone from heah.
Nor’eastah = Nor’easter, large storm that blows in from the northeast and really, really pisses people off.
Pahk= Park, what you do with the cah, also place where little kids play.
Pahtlan‘ = Portland, largest city in Maine named after Portland England or Portland cement, one of the two- we’re not sure which.
Pissah = Something or someone that (who) is very unpleasant or nasty, the old lady at town hall who you need to see for everything.
Wicked = Great, very good, the opposite of wicked.
Yahd = Yard, place where your house sits.  Also 3 feet.

 

Phrases
Down Cellah = In the basement, dark scary place where junk is stored.
From away = stranger, newcomer, anyone who’s family hasn’t lived in Maine for at least 150 years.
Go Upta Camp = Visit a vacation/hunting/fishing cabin, camping, what Mainahs do on vacation.
It ain’t theyah no moah = reference to a long ago landmark that everyone (but you) knows about.
Snow Machinin’ = Snow mobiling, riding a motorcycle that has a track and skis instead of wheels.
Yah cahn’t get theyah from heah = You’re lost, budddy.  Really, really lost.
You people = your group, your kind, your ilk. Anyone from away- especially Californier.

 

Now You Try a Few:
“‘Chout when yah go down cellah, it’s dahk”
“I’m goin’ upta camp to go snow machinin'”
“It’s two ahwahs from Pahtlan’ to Bangah”
“Last night’s nor’eastah was a wicked pissah”
“The chowdah at Thurston’s is of the finest kind”
“The deah that ate my gahden was a cunin’ crittah”
“Yah cahn’t get theyah from heah. Take a right at Bob’s place (it ain’t theyah no moah), and go from theyah”.
“You people can pahk yah cah ’round back in the yahd”
“Come to Bah Habbah, ain’t nothin’ bettah- ayuh!”

 

So what do you think?  Did Monty get it right?  Are there a few other Mainerisms that you know of?

Acadia Postpones Park Reservation Plans

Acadia Park

By now, you may have heard that the National Park Service will implementing a “timed reservation system” for many of the popular attractions in Acadia National Park, including Cadillac Peak, Jordan Pond, Sand Beach and Eagle Lake.  Though originally envisioned to begin in summer of this year, the Park Service has announced that reservations will not be needed through the spring and summer seasons of 2020.  A trial system will be tested in the fall, with roll out throughout the park scheduled to begin in the 2021 season.  For the time being, you needn’t worry about reserving your place in line or paying additional reservation fees. Of course, we always encourage guests to use the island’s free shuttle service during the summer in order to minimize congestion on the roads.  Shuttles meet at the village green, within easy walking distance from the Mira Monte.