Mira Monte Inn took it’s place in Bar Harbor History in 1864 when Orlando Ash began construction. Mr. Ash was the son of Benjamin Ash who came to this island from Gouldsboro in about 1820 having bought all the land from the shore near the bar to the mountains. The Ash brothers were early entrepreneurs – they cut the trees, sold the logs and built houses on the cleared land. By the time the trees were cleared, the Hudson River artists had discovered this island. They sold their paintings back in New York and Philadelphia and became Mt Desert Island’s first marketing ambassadors.
Their tales of the great beauty and wonderful climate enticed the wealthy industrialists to make the long boat trip “downeast” to Eden. This summer escape was truly an escape; the heat, humidity, and disease of the mid Atlantic summer months – without electricity, air conditioning or cooling breezes-made life there nearly unbearable. Mt Desert Island’s pleasant day temperatures and cooling sea breezes at night indeed seemed like Eden (which was the early name of Bar Harbor). Since they spent the summer here once they arrived, they needed to rent living quarters. Orlando built the house for himself and his wife, but they only lived there in the fall, winter and spring. In the summer, they went to her home on Gott’s Island, and rented their home –which they named Ash cottage-to the wealthy summer visitors. Most notably, the cottage served as the summer campaign home for 1884 Republican presidential candidate James G Blaine- one of the foremost political figures of the gilded age.
In the attic, one can see that the Ash family first built a two-story building, then they added a wing (which today holds the dining room and the kitchen); the third year saw construction of the ell which today holds bedrooms, but which then held servants’ working and living quarters.
In 1890, after having rented for several years, eminent Philadelphia physician and naturalist Henry C. Chapman bought the home from Orlando Ash to use as a permanent summer residence. Dr. Chapman and his wife Hannah promptly set about improving the home in keeping with their social station. They added the Greek portico and columns that surround the porch and renamed their estate Mira Monte, meaning “behold the mountains”. In those days, there was a rolling meadow between Mt Desert Street and the mountains. Today we can see them only when the leaves have fallen. After Dr. Chapman’s death in 1908, his widow continued in the role of hostess until her passing in 1931.
The property passed through several hands until 1980 when Marian Burns, a Bar Harbor native, purchased the home which by then had fallen into a state of near disrepair. She thought that a building that had a name for almost 100 years should be allowed to keep it. So, she called it Mira Monte Inn and began the painstaking process of restoring the home to its former glory. When renovating the back of the ell, the carpenters found a signed board that said “1868”. All Maine workers traditionally signed and dated their work.
In 2019 the inn was purchased by Bruce and Cheryl Ueno. Bruce had been a General Manager with Marriott and Cheryl worked for Disney and run a successful piano studio. Today, they continue the Mira Monte’s legacy of hospitality and welcome you to partake of it’s rich history.