Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A walk in the woods, and a discovery

After watching the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain last week, my husband and I headed down to the town of Bar Harbor which is lovely to visit in the quiet of the early morning. We drove down West Street and at the end, turned right onto Main, which is also Rte. 3, taking this road to the edge of town. We were looking for a small trail my husband had seen that he wanted to take. Just before you get to Old Farm Road on the left, there's a small parking area that has a gate over a trail that’s marked as a fire road.

We parked the car and headed down the fire road. I had no idea where we were going and had never visited this part of the island. I only knew that we were headed toward water.

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We came to the Schooner Head Path, but continued on toward Compass Harbor. There is a lovely meandering trail down here through the woods that’s very flat, very easy. The day had just dawned and the forest was still quite dark.

I heard something, and thought I could make out the shape of an owl on a low branch.  I quietly slipped on my long lens, and crept forward ever so slowly, stopping occasionally to shoot toward the shape.

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It was a little Northern Spotted Owl - and although I took several photos, they were all quite blurry because of the low light. The little owl took off, then landed higher up in a nearby tree. I saw that it had settled next to another small owl. The image below was one I had posted earlier this week.

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I thought that was the best of what was to come, but I was wrong.

: : :

While shooting the owls, I had ended up way behind my husband, who had come back to look for me, leaving in a bit of a huff when he saw what I was doing. When I finally left the owls to follow him, he had disappeared. I came to the ruins of an old house but it was still dark and I was so intent in finding my husband that I kept going down the path of steps that seemed to go with the old place. They led down to the water.

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Gnarly old roots threatened to trip me up, but I kept on . . .

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Until I came to a little cove that I believe may be a part of Compass Point Harbor. It was beautiful!

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A series of small paths ran down below the ruins of the house on the hill, and taking a path to my left, I came across what looks like the ruins of something but I was still looking for my husband and the dog.

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I finally found them on a rocky outcropping overlooking the Porcupine Islands and Frenchman’s Bay. I later found out that this was Dorr Point.

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Oh, this place is beautiful, isn’t it?

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George seemed happy that I caught up to them.
We stayed down here for awhile, just enjoying the beautiful morning.
And then we made our way back up the hill.

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Up the stone steps that would lead us to the ruin.

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There are so many of them – massive slabs of granite.

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By the time we got to the ruin, it was much lighter in the woods and we could see that it was not just a house, but a mansion. A once-grand estate that I thought was maybe destroyed in the Great Fire of 1947 but it was just so odd how there was no house, just the flooring. And it seems to have been preserved somewhat.

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I thought about the ruins off and on during the rest of my trip, and it wasn’t until I came home that I found out that this is what is left of George B. Door’s family home – Oldfarm, a once great house that was built in 1876.

George B. Door is considered the father of Acadia National Park. He spent his life obtaining land (through donations), offering the areas to the federal government for use as a national park to preserve the beauty of the island. It was mainly through the efforts of George Dorr that the park exists today. John D. Rockefeller gifted much of the park’s land but it was Dorr who dealt with the government, using his many connections.

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The remnants of this Queen Anne / Colonial Revival mansion are paved with brick in a herringbone pattern and are enclosed by brick and stone coping.

Oldfarm was built in 1876 for George Dorr’s parents as a summer ‘cottage’ by the architect Henry Richards and was updated in 1919 by architect Fred Savage. George lived here until his death in 1944 and donated the house and the acreage to his beloved park. The house survived the 1947 fire but was demolished in 1951 by the park service.


Oldfarm as it appeared in approximately 1909.

Courtesy NPS.

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The steps, as seen today, that led to the east piazza.


George B. Dorr

He swam in Frenchman Bay almost daily, even having to break ice along the edges to do so. He had a heart attack in 1934 while enjoying his morning swim and was told he had six months to live (he lived ten more years). Eventually he lost his sight. All these things hardly slowed him down. While intensely protective of the land, his own health and personal welfare were never a concern to him.
George Bucknam Dorr fell at Old Farm on August 5, 1944, and the heart that was supposed to have given out ten years ago finally stopped. There is a simple plaque at Sieur de Monts honoring his memory and dedication.
The preservation of these lands meant everything to Dorr. ~Courtesy NPS

The square-shaped ruin on the shoreline that I mentioned above may have been the remains of the saltwater pool that Dorr had built into the harbor. The steps lead right down to it. The woods have nearly overtaken the old place but thanks to friends of the park who were granted permission, the ruins were cleaned up last December making it safer for interested parties wanting to visit the former home of George Dorr. The park service also has tours that lead to the ruin.

So wonderful to have stumbled upon this place. And now that I know what it was, I can’t wait to go back and look around some more ~
123 Signature[5]


Anonymous said...

I love that you found the remains of the house as well as a photo of what it once looked like. Herringbone brick pattern? WOW. The house must have been wonderful in it's hey day... I can just imagine it!

Kerri Farley said...

You hit the jackpot with the owls and finding those ruins!

Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes said...

Wonderful post! You should enter the owl photo in a contest!

Reddirt Woman said...

This was a double whammy post with finding the owls and then the stroll to the old Dorr ruins. One of the wonderful things about reading blogs from friends in different parts of the country is we get to live and learn, vicariously, from bloggers like you Kate...

Thank you for sharing not only the pictures but also the history.

Caroline said...

Ruins and owls...how could you go wrong?? So flipping cool Kate!

Hilary said...

what a lovely trip, thanks...I feel like I just went with you.

beth said...

all through school, i hated anything to do with history.

you should have been my teacher, as i totally read and paid attention to everything here.......

how fun to actually find ruins....real ruins....and what they used to be.

becky up the hill said...

Beautiful birds, mysterious woods and ruins..you told us a wonderful story. Many thanks.

Candace said...

What a beautiful place! What is the building amongst the trees in the 8th photo down?

Photokismet said...

What a great day with great discoveries! I truly enjoyed every word and the photos of the owls...how cool is that!?!

Country Girl said...

It's a home someone has built into the cliff. It is right next to the park land that Dorr donated.

~ C.G.

GailO said...

What a magical morning Kate! It looks like that trail might be easy enough for the kids...what do you think? We don't usually like to go into Bar Harbor but I just might try and talk the others into it with this post:)

Cloudia said...

Magical, inspiring, companionable,

Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

> < } } ( ° >

BB said...

Utterly awesome!!!!! Love the old pic - it makes the ruins pics so much more incredible.

Beth said...

Very interesting post. This spot is now on my list of must see places.

Daryl said...

start making a list ... add this to it .. gonna buy some serious walking shoes .. awesome post

The JR said...

great shots of the owls!

what a beautiful old house that use to be

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. Beautiful picture of the owl - we have a lot on the farm, mainly barn owls. I also have a preserved long-eared owl in a cabinet that I adore.

That looks like a fabulous place to explore.
CJ x

Em Parkinson said...

What a fantastic place with a fascinating history. The owl pictures are fabulous too!

Lee Owenby said...

What a wonderful story. I love the way you wrote it. I almost feel like I was there with you.

Gillian Olson said...

Lovely walk, glad I came along. The Owl pictures are a treat.

Jill of All Trades said...

Oh my goodness, how beautiful and so interesting. If I had only known what was around there. Unfortunately it was such a quick trip.

altar ego said...

Sounds like a bit of a fairy tale journey. How lovely that you happened upon the owls, and what a great photo of the two! Wonderful pics on earlier posts as well. As usual!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Thank you. I will add this to my Bucket List. (about 10 pages long but still) Beautiful.

Lili said...

I need to go back there, I had forgotten all about this! xo ~Lili

sharon said...

What a great find! Love when I can find a bit of history and learn even more about it. The pic of the owls was gorgeous!

Jan's camera said...

Great story and photos and I absolutely love the photos of the owls. I love owls and those are great shots.

growing wild on waverly lane said...

It's wonderful to see the leftovers of another day and stare into the eyes of its owner. Great story and now we think of George and his days.

Annette Whipple said...

Lots of finds on that walk! The floor looks so much newer than it is. The owls are lovely!

Anonymous said...

Your photos and tales make me want to get back to Maine. It's been 15 years since my last Windjammer cruise out of Camden.

Thank you for sharing your beautiful images.

Georgianna said...

Hi Kate!

What a feast this post is! The gorgeous photos, the incredible owls and the adventure of finding the ruins, the cove and then the story behind it all. Just marvelous!

So happy you had such a stimulating and beautiful trip.

Hope your weekend is lovely. xo – g

A Scattering said...

The colour shot of your sweetie and Sweet George at the top of the steps is lovely.

BorderCollie said...

Such beautiful photos, makes me want to visit that place sometime!

mrs mediocrity said...

Well, how cool is that? It makes me sad that it was all torn down, but what a great story.

wayne15575 said...

Thanks Kate. For a wonderful trip. Enjoyed it a lot

Linda said...

some cottage, eh?

I'm wondering if you've ever had the chance to sample the wares at Moody's Diner on Rte 1 in Waldoboro.


Andi said...

OHmy gosh, I have GOT to vacation here.....can you give me any info?

Heidi L. said...

Our second visit to Bar Harbor this summer and many countless times before so we were looking for new spots to visit. Read in local park magazine about George Dorr and decided to look info up on-line and came upon your blog. I have to say, because of your beautiful pictures and wonderful words we went and walked this same walk just this morning! We were not as fortunate to see owls (or any wildlife except a friendly little chipmunk) but the ruins were just as you described. Thank you for posting this!