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Mr. & Mrs. William Henry Vanderbilt at center on the porch at Devilstone on their 1884 trip, with Consuelo and George on step to Mrs. Vanderbilt's left. Alva is on the step at Mr. Vanderbilt's right.

One forever associates the Vanderbilts with Newport and the opulence they created there. However, many of the family preferred the (relatively) simple pleasures of Bar Harbor, the Maine resort once considered second only to Newport.

Patriarch William Henry Vanderbilt first took the family up to Maine in the early 1880s. He leased Devilstone, the George Bowler cottage on the Shore Path (Bar Harbor’s equivalent of the Cliff Walk at Newport). In a photograph of the family assembled on the porch at Devilstone that summer, one can spot Alva, the most socially ambitious of the family, with a determined set to her face — as if to say, ‘Get me out of this nature-infested hell hole and get me back to civilization and Newport.’

However, her brother-in-law George was smitten with Bar Harbor and leased a small cottage there the next season. Mountains obviously agreed with George Vanderbilt, as would be seen in his subsequent purchase of several in North Carolina.

Devilstone, the Robert Bowler cottage on the Shore Path in Bar Harbor, leased by William Henry Vanderbilt.
Another view of Devilstone.
Vanderbilt family out for drive at Devilstone.

He happily roughed it, making do with a chef and waiters sent up from Delmonico’s to ensure that he didn’t starve, and even invited his father up for a visit — ‘to the elder Mr. Vanderbilt’s surprised delight’ wrote The New York Times. It was the last summer before William Henry Vanderbilt died and unleashed his fortune on his eight children and their architects.

For the then extravagant sum of $200,000, George Vanderbilt purchased the Gouverneur Morris Ogden cottage, designed by Charles Coolidge Haight. George Vanderbilt immediately doubled the size of the house, which he renamed Pointe d’Acadie. He commissioned Frederick Law Olmstead to landscape the grounds, which included Bar Harbor’s first private swimming pool, naturalistic in style, ocean fed, with Adirondack style log cabanas.

The two men were to continue the collaboration started in Bar Harbor at Biltmore house a few years later, and even through that larger project, George and Olmstead continued to make expensive improvements at Pointe d’Acadie. For the rest of her life, his mother, Mrs. William Henry Vanderbilt summered with him at Bar Harbor.

The estate built in 1868-69 for Gouverneur Morris Ogden, which was designed by Charles Coolidge Haight. George Vanderbilt bought it in 1889, immediately doubled its size, and renamed it Pointe d’Acadie. It was torn down in 1956. Courtesy of Maine Historical Society.

After George’s marriage to Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, he was not as often at Bar Harbor — Mrs. Vanderbilt liked Bar Harbor, but also liked being near her family, including her sister Mrs. John Nicholas Brown, in Newport. During their absences, Pointe d’Acadie was leased to appropriate tenants, including the Andrew Carnegies and the Otto Kahns.

Kahn shipped his horses up to Bar Harbor by private railroad car to compete in the horse show, one of the major events of the social season.  As for George and Edith, their prestigious presence was sorely missed during their absences and social columnists in The New York Times as well as the local papers cheered whenever they returned, predicting the liveliest summers ever.

A generous supporter of cultural activities, George Vanderbilt was a moving force behind the Building for the Arts, a Greek temple designed by Guy Lowell at the edge of the Kebo Valley Golf course. A bold venture, the only of its sort in the major resorts, it was not a financial success, despite performances by such stellar artists as Galli-Curci and Padrewski — the golf course outside was a greater draw on summer afternoons. When George Vanderbilt died, his estate still contained promissory notes for the Building of Arts, appraised as worthless.

The 1903 season found Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt and daughter Gladys away from the Breakers, staying at the Malvern Hotel on Kebo St.
The 1903 season found Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt and daughter Gladys away from the Breakers, staying at the Malvern Hotel on Kebo St.
Building of Arts at Bar Harbor, funded in part by George Vanderbilt.

Older brother William Kissam Vanderbilt, smarting from his divorce from Alva, who by now had her palace and had married her daughter to the Duke of Marlborough, mostly avoided Newport that 1895 season, and sailed up to Bar Harbor on his yacht Valiant, at the time the largest in the world, spending much of the summer moored off Pointe d’Acadie, avoiding the press and returning to Newport only for the yacht trials and races.

The rest of the family came too — Emily Vanderbilt Sloane and family before going to the Berkshires for the fall, the young widow Florence Twombly Burden, whose son would later build an iconic modern house at Northeast Harbor, even her mother, the stately Florence Vanderbilt Twombly would occasionally venture that far north — and the social columns duly took notice.

Margaret Vanderbilt Shepard was also devoted to Bar Harbor, as were her three daughters. In the mid-1890s the Eliot Fitch Shepards leased Mossley Hall, one of the resort’s most admired houses, owned by railroad executive W.B. Howard. Designed by William Ralph Emerson in 1887, and loosely based on English architect Norman Shaw’s Cragside in Northumberland, Mossley Hall was considered one of the finest designs of the shingle style

Mossley Hall, built for W.B. Howard of Chicago. Designed by William Ralph Emerson, leased variously in the 1890s by both W.C. Whitney and Eliot and Margaret Vanderbilt Shepard.
More views of Mossley Hall.

Margaret Shepard’s daughters followed their mother to Bar Harbor, and in 1902, Uncle George had A.W. Longfellow (nephew of the poet), design Islecote house on the Pointe D’Acadie estate for his niece Mrs. William Jay Schieffelin (Louisa Shepard).

One of Bar Harbor’s favorite sights was the entire Schiefflin family riding out the gate on horseback, each young Schiefflin on a successively smaller horse, with the youngest bringing up the rear on a pony.

Mrs. Shepard’s daughter Alice married Ambassador Dave Hennan Morris, son of the Louisiana lottery King, and built Bogue Chitto, a rambling shingled affair on the cliffs on fashionable Eden Street, between Hull’s Cove and Bar Harbor.

Left: Mrs. Fabbri’s brother-in-law Egisto. Right: Mrs. Fabbri with Mrs. William Ordway Partidge (mother-in-law of another Vanderbilt descendant, Wm. A.M. Burden). Below: Ernesto Fabbri and Edith Vanderbilt Shepard.

Closer to town on Eden Street, Grosvenor Atterbury designed Buonriposo for the third sister, Edith Vanderbilt Shepard, married to Morgan Partner Ernesto Fabbri. When that house burned a few years later, it was replaced with a more elegant version designed by Mrs. Fabbri’s aesthete brother-in-law Egisto (rumored also to be the very proper Mrs. Fabbri’s lover), who also collaborated with Atterbury on the Fabbri’s new town house on 94th St., which replaced her previous Beaux Arts mansion on East 62nd Street.

By 1916, brother Frederick of Hyde Park, who had given up his Newport cottage, Rough Point, several years earlier, arrived in Bar Harbor. He first leased Seven Acres, the estate of Pennsylvania Railroad president A.J. Cassatt (later purchased by E.T. Stotesbury), then bought Sonogee, the former Lyman Kendall estate, with its lavish renaissance interiors and marble staircase. Sonogee adjoined his niece Edith Fabbri’s Buonriposo to the North, and the two properties shared a most elegant Italianate garden wall.

Buonriposo, designed by Grosvenor Atterbury, the summer home of Mrs. Ernesto Fabbri (Edith Vanderbilt Shepard), known after her divorce as Mrs. Shepard Fabbri. From the August 1951 issue of Holiday Magazine.
Buonriposo burned a few years after construction, and its replacement was designed by brother-in-law Egisto Fabbri, who also collaborated with Atterbury in the Fabbri townhouse on 94th Street.
Seven Acres was the estate of A.J. Cassatt, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad (and brother of Mary). It was the first house leased in Bar Harbor by Frederick Vanderbilt before eventually purchasing Sonogee.
It was designed by Chapman and Frazer of Boston (who were also the architects of what is now the Bush estate in Kennebunkport).
The severe and earnest decor of the arts and crafts den at Seven Acres must have seemed very hair shirt to the Frederick Vanderbilts.
Clockwise from top: Sonogee, built for Amos Eno and later owned by Frederick Vanderbilt, who later sold it to Atwater Kent; Sonogee hall; Sonogee gate.
Sonogee in 1974.
Marble staircase at Sonogee.
Garden at Sonogee.

Louis Auchincloss states that Mrs. Fabbri’s only child, Theresa Fabbri, was considered the most beautiful woman in the Bar Harbor colony. Four times married, her first husband was Coats and Clark heir James Clark, also four times married, by whom she had two children, James and Edith. Theresa Fabbri’s last husband, Major George McMurtry, who had been one of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, was considered the foulest tempered man in the resort.

He succeeded E.T. Stotesbury as President of The Bar Harbor Club, where all of resort Society, including Mrs. Fabbri, gathered before lunch on Sundays. Major McMurtry owned a beautiful house, Bayview, designed by Bradley Delehanty, who also designed the Bar Harbor Club. Bayview, built in the grim Depression year of 1933 two doors down Eden Street from the Stotesbury’s, was the last big cottage built in Bar Harbor.

Bayview was built by George McMurtry, last husband of Theresa Fabbri, daughter of Edith Vanderbilt Shepard Fabbri. Architect was Bradley Delehanty, a darling of the Long Island set, but one of only two works by him in Maine; the other being the Bar Harbor Club.

The Schieffelins gave up Islecote and Bar Harbor, and moved across Frenchman’s Bay to Asheville (Maine), near the lesser, but still social, resort of Sorrento, with spectacular views across to Mt. Desert Island. They built a large estate now known as Schiefflin Point, still in the hands of descendants. Vacant, Islecote house was leased to Madeline Force Astor, the young widow of John Jacob IV. She had been summering in Bar Harbor, where she had stayed years before with her parents, ever since the Titanic disaster a three years before.

George Vanderbilt died in 1914.
 In 1920 his widow, now Mrs. Peter Goelet Gerry, sold Pointe d’Acadie and decamped for Newport. Frederick Vanderbilt’s wife Louise died in 1926, and Sonogee was sold to radio manufacturer A. Atwater Kent, who already owned several substantial Bar Harbor houses, but could not resist the lure of a former Vanderbilt house. Kent had Sonogee renovated by Society architect Frederick King in time for his daughter Elizabeth’s 1931 wedding to William Van Alen. In a neat bit of symmetry, William Van Alen’s mother, the former Daisy Post, was the niece of Mrs. Frederick Vanderbilt, and a few years later, to the dismay of many Vanderbilts, would become his principle heir.

Islecote, the William Jay Schieffelin (Louisa Vanderbilt Shepard) cottage on the George Vanderbilt estate.

Alice Vanderbilt Morris’s heirs demolished Bogue Chitto, although they continued to use the large carriage house as a summer residence for some years.

A few years after Mrs. Fabbri died in 1953, her daughter Mrs. McMurtry had the great house demolished. Structural debris still litters the beach below the bluff where the house sat. A daughter of the house that replaced Buonriposo tells of finding small treasures amidst the rubble — a gold mesh evening bag with Mrs. Fabbri’s initials, a terra cotta angel, a buckle inscribed ‘Edith’ with a date.

Theresa Fabbri’s daughter by James Clark married textile heir Minot Milliken. They built a house at Hull’s Cove still occupied by their children.

Bogue Chitto, Bar Harbor cottage of Alice Vanderbilt Shepard and her husband Dave Hennen Morris.

Unlike at Newport, few traces remain of the Vanderbilts at Bar Harbor. Many of the houses they occupied — Mossley Hall, Pointe d’Acadie, Islecote, Devilstone, Bogue Chitto, Corfield, Buonriposo, Porcupine House, and Seven Acres — have been demolished. Fragments of the estates, carriage houses, or gates, and a lodge at Pointe d’Acadie, survive. Sonogee partially remains, open briefly to the public in the 1970s, and after the failure of that venture, partially demolished and converted to nursing home use, its marble staircase still rising to the upper floors that are no longer there. As for the Building of Arts, it was lost in the 1947 forest fire that decimated much of social Bar Harbor.

The names of the family estates live on as room names in the hotels and inns that litter today’s Bar Harbor. To find a trace of the Vanderbilt family in Bar Harbor today, amidst the t-shirt shops, one has to visit the Church Hall at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church, donated as a Sunday school by the high minded Mrs. William Henry Vanderbilt in 1888.

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