Monday, September 25, 2017

Down East Diary, Part I

Sunrise on Acadia. Augustus Phillips, artist. "Dedicated to the happy and loving memory of George B. Dorr, Charles W. Eliot & John D. Rockefeller Jr. who conceived, promoted and extended Acadia National Park. Courtesy Northeast Harbor Library.
Down East Diary, Part I
By Augustus Mayhew

With South Florida rattled by the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and the directional uncertainty of Hurricanes Jose and Maria, American Airlines allowed me to escape the storm season earlier than scheduled to find refuge Down East and on Midcoast Maine. And while even the most authoritative meteorologist promised the worse weather for Mount Desert Island, I arrived to find painterly landscapes etched with faint fog banks, swiftly moving clouds, and the lightest of intermittent drizzles that later subsided into the sunniest and bluest of Fall skies. This part of Maine is a reminder how beautiful the world can be. That is, as long as you can withhold your appreciation for the crowds. Yes, it was International Hawk Migration Week and traffic was stop-and-go as busses and a bumper-to-bumper caravan of weekenders were heading off the island as I was arriving. Fearing weather was going to ruin my pursuit of Maine's simply splendid gardens I had refocused my plan to spotlight Maine's "State of the Art." Nonetheless, the weather gods prevailed over the most savant meteorologists and I was able to appreciate both.

Part I focuses on two of Mount Desert Island's great gardens and the remarkable Savage and Rockefeller families. Midweek I stayed at the iconic Asticou Inn in the Village of Northeast Harbor, begun more than a century ago by Augustus "A.C." Savage. In the mid-1960s the Savage family sold the Inn to the Asti-Kim Corporation, a group formed by Philadelphia families that have sustained the Asticou's traditions.

Later, Part II spotlights Maine's remarkable aesthetic tradition, having attracted art world notables for more than a century.
7:00 am. Asticou Inn, Room 111.  A panoramic view toward the village marina and harbor as the morning fog settles.
Asticou Inn
15 Peabody Drive – Northeast Harbor
Fred L. Savage, architect. 1901.
Nightfall at the ​Asticou Inn, entrance.
​Asticou Inn, switchboard exhibit. A reminder that just as the Rusticators first arrived in Maine aboard steamers and carriages to bathe in the wilderness, today's Maine still offers the same remote pleasures, albeit, as long as you arrive early enough to find a parking space to hike your favorite trails.
​Asticou Inn, harborside view. Architect Fred Savage’s drawings, sketches and correspondence are housed in the archives at the Mt. Desert Historical Society and the Northeast Harbor Library. A descendant of the island’s most notable pioneer families, Savage worked in construction and cabinet making before becoming a draftsman for Boston’s prestigious Peabody & Stearns firm (1885-1887). Upon his return to Northeast Harbor, Savage was an in-demand architect, as proficient in the era’s prolific Shingle Style as Tudor and Neoclassical motifs. His son Fred Savage Jr. also became an architect.
Asticou Inn, Cranberry Lodge. Built by Augustus and Emily Savage in 1854, it is the oldest existing building among the Asticou Inn's compound of surrounding cottages.
​In 1910 John D. Rockefeller Jr. acquired The Eyrie, a 99-room cottage in Seal Harbor, beginning much of the family's continuing presence on Mount Desert Island.
The Family of John D. Rockefeller at their Summer Home, Seal Harbor, Maine, 1929-1932. Marguerite Zorach (1887-1968, artist. Embroidered portrait. The Rockefeller tapestry is on exhibit for the first time in more than 50 years at the Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, during 2017.  It has been described as "a celebration of the Rockefeller vision that helped shape Acadia National Park and preserve the beauty of Mount Desert Island for future generations."​
​Having played a significant role in the creation of the Acadia National Park, having contributed more than 11,000 acres, the park's 45-mile carriage road system was donated by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his family. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Letter, John D. Rockefeller Jr. to Charles Savage.Courtesy Mount Desert Historical Society.
Charles K. Savage. Courtesy Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve.
The partnership between the Savage and Rockefeller families continues today. David and Peggy Rockefeller established the Island Foundation to aid in the preservation of Acadia’s incomparable landscapes. In 2007 the foundation rechristened itself the Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve after it enhanced its portfolio taking on the management of the Asticou Azalea Garden, Thuya Garden and Lodge, Asticou Terraces, and Asticou Landing. Two years ago David Rockefeller donated the more than 1,000 acres surrounding these properties, making for approx. 1,165 acres of historic gardens, lands and trails managed by the Land & Garden Preserve.

 The Land & Garden Preserve is headed by Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, with Kate Baxter, vice-president, and William Foulke, treasurer. The board’s directors include Rock Caivano, James Clark, Jr., Don Coates, Jan Coates, Amy Falls, Sheldon Goldthwait, Eileen Growald, Martha Jackson, Ann Judd, Lauren Kogod, David MacDonald, C.W. Eliot Paine, Sam McGee, Stephen Milliken, Polly Pierce, Nancy Putnam, Susan Rockefeller, and Jim Sligar.

Asticou Azalea Garden
3 Sound Drive – Northeast Harbor

Located across Peabody Drive from the Inn, the Inn’s owner Charles K. Savage is credited with designing the Asticou Azalea Garden and Thuya Garden. In 1956, with John D. Rockefeller Jr. as his "silent partner," Savage acquired Beatrix Farrand’s endangered plant collection from her Reef Point estate in Bar Harbor. This remarkable collection became the foundation of both the Asian-inspired Azalea Garden and the English-styled Thuya Garden.
Asticou Azalea Garden, view from the mountainscape across Asticou Pond.
Asticou Azalea Garden, view from Peabody Drive across the pond to the Streamside Garden.
Asticou Azalea Garden.
Asticou Azalea Garden.
Asticou Azalea Garden.
Asticou Azalea Garden.
Asticou Pond.
The Sand Garden is at the far end of the Azalea Garden.
​In the Sand Garden.
Trail marker.
Village of Northeast Harbor
Shore Drive showcases the village's Shingle Style architectural history.
Northeast Harbor Library.
Northeast Harbor Library. A striking Mount Desert landscape by Sara Weeks Peabody.
Thuya Lodge & Garden
Thuya Drive – Northeast Harbor
Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve

Boston-based landscape designer Joseph Henry Curtis built Thuya Lodge designed by George Moffette Jr.  After Curtis’s death in 1928, Charles Savage became sole trustee of the Asticou Terraces Trust established by Curtis to open his estate for the enjoyment of residents and visitors. The garden was opened to the public in 1962 having been first conceived in 1933 by Savage. As with the Asticou Azalea Garden, it was not until the mid-1950s that financial help from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. allowed him to obtain the plantings from Beatrix Farrand’s Reef Point garden in Bar Harbor.  The garden’s original framework centered by two bordering rows of perennials and annuals was said to be inspired by the style of English landscape designer Gertrude Jekyll. The rustic lodge is furnished with period pieces except for the original case clock, some of the china and a desk that belonged to Curtis.
Portrait of Joseph Henry Curtis. Thuya Lodge.
Thuya Lodge.
Thuya Lodge, entrance.
Thuya Lodge, main staircase leading to the Library.
Thuya Lodge.
Thuya Lodge, view from the living room to the library above.
Thuya Lodge, kitchen.
Thuya Lodge, view from the garden.
​Thuya Garden, entrance gates. Augustus Phillips, artist-designer.
​Thuya Garden, "The Season's Last Hummingbird."
Thuya Garden.
Fall blooms at Thuya Garden
Thuya Garden, perennials in bloom.
Thuya Garden, lower pavilion.
​Thuya garden, upper pavilion.
That elusive hummingbird.​
On the road to Bar Harbor
​Seal Harbor, The Coffee Shop Cafe.
Poster, Bar Harbor. Forthcoming opening of the film The Fire of 47.  Devastating to many of Bar Harbor's summer cottages, the Asticou Inn was spared from the 1947 fire, now the subject of a documentary film.​
Next: Part II, Maine: State of the Art
Photography by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Palm Beach-A Greater Grandeur