Magazine article American Forests

By the People, for the People: The Creation of Acadia National Park

Magazine article American Forests

By the People, for the People: The Creation of Acadia National Park

Article excerpt

JUST OFF THE COAST OF MAINE sits a large, rugged, rocky island that has been home to various groups of people for thousands of years. In 1604, French explorer Samuel de Champlain noted the large, knob-like peaks that occupied the otherwise barren landscape and gave the island the name Mount Desert, which it's still known by today.

It wasn't until the mid-1800s, however, that Mount Desert's popularity began to rise as artists flocked to the island hoping to capture its pristine landscapes on canvas. Mount Desert quickly became a hot spot for painters and writers. With its rise in popularity, dozens of hotels were established to accommodate the influx of visitors, and tourism soon became a thriving industry in the area. Not long after, wealthy Easterners fell in love with artists' renditions of the picturesque island, and they; too, quickly made Mount Desert a favorite summer escape. However, the humble lodgings just weren't suitable to this new breed of visitors, so prime plots of land were purchased by well-to-do families to build extravagant summer "cottages," as they were called. The construction of these lavish homes began to worry local residents Charles Eliot and George B. Don.

Working under Frederick Law Olmsted as a landscape architect, Eliot was inspired to protect natural landscapes, and soon developed his own ideas about how to conserve his favorite vacation spot. Unfortunately, before he was able to put his plans into motion, Eliot contracted meningitis and died suddenly at age 38.

While sorting through his son's possessions, Eliot's father, Charles W. Eliot, came across the younger Eliot's plans for preserving Mount Desert. Determined to see his son's dreams carried out, he established the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, a nonprofit group of private citizens committed to preserving historic and scenic lands by buying and managing those areas for future public use.

Like the younger Eliot, George Darr came from a wealthy Boston family that vacationed at Mount Desert. As a young man, Dorr decided to make the island his primary home. He was committed to preserving the natural beauty of his island home, and as a member of the Hancock County Trustees, he spent his days buying up property around Mount Desert and persuading others to donate their land for protection under Maine's state legislature. Eventually, the trustees acquired a large part of the island, but Dorr soon learned that the state legislature wanted to revoke the trustees' nonprofit status, which would mean that the land they had acquired would no longer be protected. Dorr quickly set out to bypass the state and appealed to the federal government for greater protection for Mount Desert.

of a national park at Mount Desert, Dorr opted to have the lands established as a national monument, which needed only presidential approval. Though Dorr would have preferred national park status for his beloved land, national monument status would at least offer greater protection while Dorr waited to receive national park status through congressional approval. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed into existence Sieur de Month National Monument on Mount Desert.

Later that same year, President Wilson signed a bill officially establishing the National Park Service to serve as the agency "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.