Exploring Maine’s Mount Desert Island

Aug 4, 2022

Decorative Arts Trust members enjoyed a long-awaited trip to Maine’s renowned summer getaway, Mount Desert Island (MDI), in July 2022. The itinerary was thoughtfully planned by MDI residents Hornor Davis (a Governor on the Decorative Arts Trust’s Board) and Bill Hague with Brock Jobe (Board President). Catherine Carlisle, the Trust’s Manager of Educational Programs, shepherded the enthusiastic group across the island as her inaugural program with the Trust.

The excursion began on Tuesday, July 19, when participants arrived at the historic Asticou Inn. In the evening, Head Gardener Mary Roper offered remarks and a tour of the Land & Garden Preserve’s stunning Asticou Azalea Garden, just steps away from the Inn. Inspired by the famed Japanese Ryoan-ji zen garden, its serene design invited guests to wander stone paths and discover hidden sand gardens and water streams. The enchanting tour was followed by an opening dinner and drinks in the Asticou Inn’s storied dining room.

Wednesday morning kicked off with visits to Bar Harbor attractions. Beginning with the Abbe Museum to appreciate the earliest settlement and ongoing contributions of the region’s indigenous Wabanki tribes, we continued to the nearby St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church, with its remarkable Tiffany stained glass windows. Participants had the pleasure of touring private residences, including architect Robert Patterson’s exceptional Amory Hill, a memorable lunch at Bide-a-While, and a stroll through the extensive and elaborate gardens of Kenarden. The day concluded at La Rochelle, the home of the Bar Harbor Historical Society, with a lecture on MDI architecture from Willie Granston, a PhD Candidate in History of Art & Architecture at Boston University.  A delicious farm-to-table feast was served overlooking the harbor at sunset and capped off a magnificent day.

On Thursday, the group explored the area more immediate to the Asticou Inn: Northeast Harbor. Starting the day at Thuya Garden, the second Land & Garden Preserve property on our itinerary, members explored the bounty of summer florals with garden manager Rick LeDuc. Participants saw the glorious Gothic Revival stone church St. Mary’s by-the-Sea,  and the day included visits to a variety of private residences: Hedgefield, Fred Savage’s Rosserne, Westacre, and Fern Rock. Marvelous collections, fanciful gardens, delicious meals, and warm hospitality delighted at every turn.

Members journeyed to Seal Harbor on Friday to enjoy several more specially arranged visits to private homes including Skylands, Wanakiwin, and Hi Mount. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, the 1920s creation of famed garden designer Beatrix Ferrand, impressed all with its magnificent collection of blooms, secret garden paths, and spectacular Soderholtz pots, all contained within a Chinese wall roofed with tiles from the Forbidden City. Participants were later inspired by St. Jude’s Episcopal Church and the unique former Seal Harbor Congregation Church, wherein the current owners thoughtfully converted the deconsecrated building into a private residence, creatively preserving the original organ, pulpit, and other fixtures. The day’s travels ended with a stop at Landfall, a private residence on the harbor with magnificent Japanese gardens. Upon returning to the historic Asticou Inn, members got a quintessential taste of Maine with a traditional lobster bake of a full boiled lobster with drawn butter, fresh corn on the cob, and massive, airy popovers!

On Saturday, participants headed to Blue Hill and Ellsworth for rotating visits to two historic house museums presenting an interesting study in contrasts. The 1814 Jonathan Fisher House Museum today presents the homestead of the first settled minister in the area. Its two-story wood-frame structure with clapboard siding was designed and built by the multi-talented and eccentric Reverend Fisher and contains incredibly intact interiors and many family objects. The Black House at the Woodlawn Museum was erected in 1824 and is considered one of Maine’s most famous houses. The Neoclassical brick house offers a wealth of family treasures and a glimpse into the lives of the lumber barons who formed the culture of Ellsworth. After a memorable lunch in downtown Ellsworth, members returned to MDI for a private visit to the inspired home and gardens of August Moon and an evening jaunt to Long Pond Cottage, which capped off a wonderful trip with style and conviviality.

The Trust’s Calendar of Events shows upcoming Special Programs as well as domestic Symposia and international Study Trips Abroad. We hope you can join the Trust on one of our future adventures!

About The Decorative Arts Trust Bulletin

Formerly known as the "blog,” the Bulletin features new research and scholarship, travelogues, book reviews, and museum and gallery exhibitions. The Bulletin complements The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust, our biannual members publication.


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