SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Authors Dan and Leslie Landrigan will give a book talk from their recently published book “Bar Harbor Babylon: Murder, Misfortune, and Scandal on Mount Desert Island” Tuesday, Aug. 13 at 5:30 p.m. at the Southwest Harbor Public Library.
“Bar Harbor Babylon” takes readers on a tour of the misadventures and misfortunes that punctuate the island’s wealthy and privileged past.
Both former news reporters, the Landrigans turned to old texts: newspapers and out of print books to dig up the stories of the rich and famous.
“It was front page news back then,” explained Leslie Landrigan.
There’s the story, for example, of “the fabulous McLeans” a wealthy couple who summered on MDI and bought the Hope Diamond, which supposedly brought them bad luck.
Though their story did end badly, Leslie Landrigan attributed this to “money [problems], alcohol addiction, and insanity.”
After a lavish and outlandish lifestyle that involved keeping a pet seal and bringing a bear to a brothel, Edward Beale McLean died in an insane asylum while his wife Evelyn “died in a Washington mansion, out of money, with plaster crumbling,” said Leslie Landrigan.
The Bar Harbor Fire of 1947 erased many of the remains of the opulent lifestyle that “was declining anyway,” said Dan Landrigan. “A lot of the old money families were struggling to maintain the mansions.”
For example, said Leslie Landrigan, all that now remains of the Vanderbilts’ multiple mansions on MDI are a single hunting lodge and a marker in Acadia National Park. “Many of their mansions burned, and some were torn down,” she said.
The Landrigans are the writers behind the New England Historical Society blog. Since its inception in 2014, the blog — dedicated to the exploration and promotion of New England history — has hosted more than three million visitors.
With backgrounds in journalism and publishing, they now live on the coast in Stonington, where they pursue their interest in history. Dan Landrigan works for REACH Maine Marketing.
Books will be available for sale and signing.