Institute of Classical Architecture & Art

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Private Bar Harbor and Mt. Desert Island

August 24 - 27, 2017

Tour arranged by Classical Excursions

The towns of one of Maine’s most revered resort islands were described by the maritime historian Samuel Eliot Morison in his book, The Story of Mount Desert Island, “It used to be said that to be a summer resident at Bar Harbor you needed money but no brains; at Northeast Harbor you wanted brain but no money; but at Southwest Harbor, neither brains nor money!”

Morison was a longtime resident, and the island;s trademark town has been Bar Harbor, which in the late 19th century became a summer stopover for the upper echelons of American society. Other towns on the island witnessed the seasonal stays of university presidents, professors, scientists, and the clergy, among others. From the standpoint of the island’s rustic vernacular architecture constructed mainly of wood shingle siding and field stone, one town didn’t supersede another.

The island has been a destination for inspiration, relaxation, and outdoor activities since the 1840s. Ar first, Hudson Valley School painters, most notably Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, travelled to Mount Desert Island, and in particular to Bar Harbor, to paint images of the area’s spectacular seascapes and landscapes.

After the Civil War, great hotels were built for vacationers or “rusticators,” but ultimately the “cottages,” rambling shingle-style mansions, and middle class summer residences took over the landscape. Disaster hit Bar Harbor with the Great Fire of 1947, when a third of its 222 cottages were destroyed. Today, with a social history that rivals Newport, the Berkshires, and Tuxedo Park, and great scenic beauty all its own, Mount Desert Island remains a major summer destination. Like most of the 19th century resorts, many of the seasonal homes remain in private hands, while others have become museums, belong to institutions, or offer overnight accommodations as bed and breakfasts.

What connotes the shingle style? In his book on the area’s most famous architect, Maine Cottages: Fred L. Savage and the Architecture of Mount Desert, architectural historian John M. Bryan states that for “practical and economic factors” wood shingles weather well. The fact that they overlap can allow movement with changes in climate without dampness penetrating. New England shingles, made of “rot-resistant white cedar,” were turned out in vast quantities in squared off or rounded shapes.

One other major aspect of Mount Desert Island is nature and the cultivation of beautiful gardens. One person stands out for her highly talented contribution, the legendary landscape designer Beatrix Farrand, who summered at Bar Harbor for over half a century, creating over 60 gardens. One of her greatest projects is the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden at the Eyrie, the family estate at Seal Harbor. Large collections of plants from her Reef Point home can now be seen at the Asticou Azalea Garden and Thuya Garden, both at Northeast Harbor. Another Farrand garden can be found at her last home, Garland Farm, Salisbury Cove, now the headquarters of the Beatrix Farrand Society.

The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) in collaboration with Classical Excursions is pleased to announce that an exclusive tour is being offered of Bar Harbor and other significant towns and areas on extraordinary Mt. Desert Island.

An opening lecture on “The Shingle Style on Mount Desert from William R. Emerson to Robert A.M. Stern” will be given by Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr who serves as director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and is the Maine State Historian. He has written extensively on Main history and architecture. We will have two guides, Sargent Gardiner, an architectural historian whose family has summered at Bar Harbor for several generations and who is also a partner with Robert A.M. Stern Architects, as well as architectural historian Willie Granston, a native of Mt. Desert Island.

Tour highlights include:

  • A private tour of Redwood, Bar Harbor, designed by William R. Emerson, considered to be one of the most architecturally important summer cottages in Maine

  • A private tour of La Rochelle, Bar Harbor, designed by Andrews, Jacques & Rantoul, with its unique and elegant blend of French Renaissance and English Georgian architecture

  • A private visit to Skylands, designed by Duncan Candler, built of local pink granite with grounds designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen. Edsel Ford and his family summered here, and it is now the Seal Harbor estate of Martha Stewart

  • A private tour of Garland Farm at Salisbury Cove with the president of the Beatrix Farrand Society

  • A private visit to Mountaintop House, a 21st century shingle-style house by Albert, Righter & Tittmann

  • A private tour of The Turrets, Bar Harbor, designed by Bruce Price. The mansion is an interpretation of the French chateau style with a complex roof line of a wealth of projections, capped towers, and dormers

  • A tour by boat of Somes Sound to view the estates that line the shore

  • Exclusive tours of Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor

  • Overnight accommodations at the Harborside Hotel, Spa and Marina, overlooking Frenchman’s Bay in Bar Harbor.

    For further information contact Tom Hayes, contact@classicalexcursions.com or 413-445-7972.


The tour price is $2,295. A $400 single supplement applies. Please note a fully tax-deductible donation of $500 per person is required to participate in this Travel Program.

Image Credit: Sargent C. Gardiner