Bar Harbor, Maine
The town of Bar Harbor, Maine was founded on the northeast shore of Mount Desert Island, which the Wabanaki Indians knew as Pemetic, meaning "range of mountains" or "mountains seen at a distance." The Wabanaki seasonally fished, hunted and gathered berries, clams, and other shellfish in the area. They spoke of Bar Harbor as Man-es-ayd'ik ("clam-gathering place") or Ah-bays'auk ("clambake place"), leaving great piles of shells as evidence of this abundance. In early September 1604, French explorer Samuel de Champlain ran aground on a rock ledge believed to be just off Otter Cliffs, and when he came ashore to repair his boat he met local natives. Champlain named the island Isles des Monts Deserts, meaning "island of barren mountains" — now called Mount Desert Island, the largest in Maine.
First settled in 1763 by Israel Higgins and John Thomas, the community was incorporated on February 23, 1796 as Eden, after Sir Richard Eden, an English statesman. Early industries included fishing, lumbering and shipbuilding. With the best soil on Mount Desert Island, it also developed agriculture. In the 1840s, its rugged maritime scenery attracted the Hudson River School and Luminism artists Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, William Hart and Fitz Henry Lane. Inspired by their paintings, journalists, sportsmen and "rusticators" followed. Agamont House, the first hotel in Eden, was established in 1855 by Tobias Roberts. Birch Point, the first summer estate, was built in 1868 by Alpheus Hardy.
By 1880, there were 30 hotels, with tourists arriving by train and ferry to the Gilded Age resort that would rival Newport, Rhode Island. The rich and famous tried to outdo each other with entertaining and estates, often hiring landscape gardener and landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, a resident at local Reef Point Estate, to design their gardens. A glimpse of their lifestyles was available from the Shore Path, a walkway skirting waterfront lawns. Yachting, garden parties at the Pot & Kettle Club, and carriage rides up Cadillac Mountain were popular diversions. Others enjoyed horse-racing at Robin Hood Park-Morrell Park. President William Howard Taft played golf in 1910 at the Kebo Valley Golf Club. On March 3, 1918, Eden was changed to Bar Harbor, after the sand and gravel bar, visible at low tide, which leads across to Bar Island and forms the rear of the harbor. The name would become synonymous with elite wealth. It was the birthplace of vice-president Nelson Rockefeller on July 8, 1908.
In mid-October 1947, however, Maine experienced a severe drought. Sparks at a cranberry bog near Town Hill ignited a wildfire that would intensify over 10 days, and not be declared out until mid-November. Nearly half the eastern side of Mount Desert Island burned, including 67 palatial summer houses on Millionaires' Row. Five historic grand hotels were destroyed, in addition to 170 permanent homes. Over 10,000 acres (40 km˛) of Acadia National Park were destroyed. Fortunately, the town's business district was spared, including Mount Desert Street, where several former summer homes within a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places operate as inns.
Now, Bar Harbor is a destination for tourists from all over the world. Cruise ships are in the harbor from May through October, most often in September (120 ship visits in 2010). Bar Harbor also hosts many long-distance cyclists, as it is the eastern terminus of the Adventure Cycling Association's Northern Tier Bicycle Route (which ends in Anacortes, Washington), and the northern terminus of its Atlantic Coast Bicycle Route (which ends in Key West, Florida).