I spent the morning today longing for a sticky bun, and reading Lost Bar Harbor by G. W. Helfrich and Gladys O’Neil. I had absently updated my Facebook status when I got up, mentioning the sticky bun wish, and to my shock and delight a friend of mine obligingly delivered one to my door. My faith in the goodness of humanity is completely restored!! (And I will own up to the cinnamon smudges in the book when I return it to the library…)
Lost Bar Harbor was a collection of photographs of the grand cottages and hotels that were built here in the late 1800’s, which by the 1970’s had all been either torn or burnt down. Accompanying the photographs were lively details about the owners and architects and occupants of the buildings.
The scale and lavishness of these cottages absolutely blows me away. They were perfectly in tune with the dazzling era in which they were built, but of course only a very small percentage of the population had the means to enjoy them. What a vibrant, indulgent, and interesting group of people they were. Surgeons, newspaper men, railroad barons, friends of kings and presidents, the type of men and women who could give $7 million dollars to each of their children as a Christmas present, or buy the Hope Diamond, or one hundred dozen eighteen-inch roses at $18 a dozen to decorate the saloon on a yacht!
Even though I can’t identify with their wealth, I certainly appreciate that they had the means to buy and the generosity to then give away the land that became Acadia National Park.
As I slid through the woods on the Jesup Path this afternoon, I gave those rich guys and gals kudos. Gliding on my boot heels over thick ice, squealing in delight when I crashed through a thin spot and sent a CRACK like a gunshot ricocheting between Dorr and Champlain mountains, I felt an overwhelming gratefulness and a great rush of pleasure.
I suppose that is how I do identify with those folks, who for all their money and style came to this island to hike and picnic and soak up the same gorgeous vistas that I now enjoy. As a writer for Harper’s Magazine wrote in 1872 or so, “There is a vigorous, sensible, healthy feeling in all they do.” They came here to escape from the “overdressed, pretentious, nonsensical, unhealthy sentimentality” that was found in other resort-type locals.
I guess some of that overdressed pretentiousness did eventually make it’s rounds about the island, and the ridiculously huge cottages were built. While the ones remembered in this book are only black and white photographs, one has only to wander the maze of roads on the hill in Seal Harbor to be reminded that for the so called lucky few, the “simple life on a grand scale” (A. Atwater Kent) is still desirable.
As for me, I look at the pictures and respectfully trespass now and then, but the only opulence I really need is an abundance of birch trees casting blue shadows across a glossy pool of ice.
Sticky buns delivered to my door are also pretty nice. 🙂