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

Mira Monte Receives “Traveler’s Choice” Award for 2022


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.

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.

Stay at Home Recipes- Mira Monte Popovers!

Stay at Home Recipes- Popovers! makes 10-12 medium popovers

Maine’s shelter-in-place directive has been extended until the end of May, so it looks like we’ll all be doing a lot more baking!  You’d pay quite a bit for popovers at the local eateries, but you can make them yourself for just pennies. When it comes to popovers, success isn’t about fancy ingredients, it’s all about technique! It took me a few tries to come up with a recipe that I could live with, but I think this one’s a keeper.  These popovers are nice and crusty on the outside, soft, light and eggy on the inside, with a nice cup-like shape.  Enjoy!

  • Vegetable oil to coat pan
  • 3/4 C all purpose flour
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt according to taste
  • 2 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 1 1/4 C milk
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 450° F. Pour about 1 Tbsp cooking oil into each well of a muffin pan, generously coating the bottom and sides. Place in preheated oven for 5 minutes or until oil is hot.

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Mix to combine.

Combine the milk, butter and worcestershire in a microwaveable bowl and microwave for about 1 minute, allowing the butter to melt completely. Mixture should be warm but not hot.  Add eggs and whisk to combine.

Gradually add the flour to the milk mixture and whisk until just combined. The mixture will be thin and a little lumpy- don’t over mix or a rubbery texture will result.

Pour batter into the hot muffin pans filling each cup halfway. Bake in oven for 10 minutes until the batter has puffed up and set.  Reduce the temperature to 350° F  and continue to bake for 15 to 20 minutes more until golden brown.  Serve immediately with jam and butter.

Tips:

  • When making popovers, steam is the sole leavening agent so a hot oven and pan are imperative.
  • Heating the butter with the milk in a microwave results in a firmer crust that will resist deflating.  Cold milk will yield lighter, souffle-like popovers.
  • Try adding some chopped herbs, blueberries or a little cheese for a creative twist.