Bar Harbor Inn
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What is now called the Bar
Harbor Inn was once an "oasis" of culture for the likes of the Vanderbilts,
Pulitzers, and Morgans. According to Gladys O'Neil,
local historian, the first social club to be organized on the island
was started in 1874 and named the Oasis
Club. After brief stays in rented buildings, the club
moved into its own quarters in 1887, newly incorporated as the Mount
Desert Reading Room, with the avowed purpose of promoting
"literary and social culture." The handsome new cedar shingled structure,
designed by architect William Randolph Emerson, became the center
of social activities during the summers before World War I. In 1910,
President Taft was entertained there during his three-day
stay in Bar Harbor. For the next 35 years, the club flourished,
and members saw their ranks swell by visiting yachtsmen whose gleaming
boats lay moored in Frenchman Bay, as well as officers of the U.
S. Navy whose ships would make annual visits.
Ladies, though allowed admittance by invitation on special occasions, did not enjoy equal status with men at the club until 1921. It was then that a restaurant was opened to the public, and the club, faced with ever-increasing maintenance costs, sought to attract more investors.
However, by 1922, it was no longer feasible for the club to carry
the financial burden, and it was sold to the Maine Central Railroad.
Over the next 25 years, the building had a number of proprietors
and served a variety of tenants. In 1933, a group of hotel owners
organized the Shore Club to
allow guests at local hotels the use of club facilities. During
World War II, the U.S. Navy leased the building and utilized it as
an observation headquarters. When the terrible fire of 1947 raged
throughout Bar Harbor, the American Red Cross used the building
to give assistance to many who were burned out. After the fire,
Bar Harbor was left without a single hotel to attract visitors back
to the area.
A group of townspeople joined in 1950 to develop the Hotel
Bar Harbor with an initial 40-room wing, followed in
1960 by a 20-room motel along the shorepath. The property was purchased
in 1987 by David J. Witham, who changed the name to the Bar
Harbor Inn, and by 1999 completely redeveloped the property.
The Inn now has 153 guest rooms with modern amenities and is considered
by many to be one of Maine's finest oceanfront properties.
Next tour stop: Local activities.