Written by Missy Johnston

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine

Most people think they know all about Bar Harbor, Maine, from what they’ve experienced there on vacation or seen on the big and small screen. It’s a lovely coastal town on the shores of Maine, and it draws tourists from all over the country because of its beauty and New England charm.

In fact, that famous charm is one of the reasons Bar Harbor is a featured stop along our Camden to Camden, Maine private yacht charter.

Bar Harbor Wasn’t Always Bar Harbor

However, Bar Harbor didn’t even become Bar Harbor until 1918. Before then, it was known as the Town of Eden. And before that, the area was inhabited by the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes, long before Europeans began to settle there in the early 1600s. This quaint coastal town has had its share of ups and downs since those early years.

The Town of Eden was incorporated in 1796, just a short 20 years after the founding of the United States of America. Samuel Adams himself signed the incorporation documents; the original papers, along with several other historical documents, such as the warrant issued to assemble the very first town meeting, can be viewed in Bar Harbor’s local historical museum.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor Becomes a Popular Vacation Destination

Bar Harbor began gaining popularity as a coastal resort destination in the 1850s, when painters including Thomas Birch, Thomas Cole, Frederic E. Church, and others released their depictions of the area’s breathtaking seashore and surrounding mountains. The first hotel—The Agamont House—appeared in 1855 to welcome an influx of interested tourists.

The first summer “cottage” was built in 1868 by Alpheus Hardy, which marked the beginning of a Gilded Age where wealthy people bought property and built opulent summer mansions. Some of the most notable residents included Frederick and George Vanderbilt, William Proctor, and Joseph Pulitzer.

The Town of Eden was the place to be if you were in high society. Golf, garden parties, and horse racing became some of the favorite pastimes of wealthy residents.

Agamont Park - Bar Harbor, Maine

Agamont Park – Bar Harbor, Maine

Unfortunately, most of the attractions and summer cottages were destroyed in 1947 when a terrible fire raged over more than 17,000 total acres of land. It was such an enormous and uncontrollable blaze that it made national news at the time. Local residents were forced to escape by sea when all the roads became blocked. The inferno was so bad, it took a month to be fully extinguished, and even then, it was only successfully put out because a majority of the fireball blew itself out toward the sea.

Though the introduction of an income tax in the 1920’s and the national financial collapse that triggered the Great Depression in 1929 were also large contributing factors, the fire’s destruction marked the end of the millionaires flocking to Bar Harbor. Many never attempted to rebuild their summer cottages. Permanent locals did rebuild, though, and today Bar Harbor is once again a gem on the coast of Maine. Photographs and other remnants of the town’s Gilded Age—including several pictures of the grand summer cottages on Millionaires’ Row—are housed in the local museum.

Today, visit Bar Harbor by yacht, to experience this village just as the Millionaires once did during The Gilded Age and enjoy everything this little village has to offer including Acadia National Park, the local museum, and all the local restaurants and shops.