One the real pleasures of the yearlong Acadia National Park Centennial celebration has been the opportunity to delve deeper into the history, background and personal relationships that helped create the park and nurture its growth.
In addition to books and lectures providing more insight into the thought processes of George B. Dorr, and his communications with John D. Rockefeller Jr., there is perhaps no relationship worth exploring more than the one between Rockefeller and the legendary Beatrix Farrand, whose talents and skills have left a lasting imprint on gardens and landscapes all across Mount Desert Island.
That relationship has been brought to life like never before in scholar Roxanne Brouse’s treatise “The Public Spirited Beatrix Farrand of Mount Desert Island,” published this year by the Beatrix Farrand Society that operates out of Garland Farm, Farrand’s final residence, on Route 3 in Bar Harbor.
In the foreword by Rockefeller’s son, David, the importance of the pair’s collaboration is spotlighted.
He writes: “While the study rightfully focuses on Beatrix Farrand and her superlative skills, I am very pleased that the author does not neglect the role of her principal collaborator, my father.
“She brings both of them to life and adds important details about a number of other individuals involved in the planning and building of Acadia’s impressive network of carriage roads, buildings and hiking trails and the plantings that complement them.”
In particular, Brouse notes the contributions of William Miller and son Charles, the founders of Miller Gardens in Otter Creek, who worked closely with the pair on both gardens and carriage roads.
Rockefeller continues that he witnessed many conversations between his father and Farrand and tagged along on field trips. “They consulted continuously about the smallest detail – the texture of flowers or the color of a wall – in person and by letter, but never lost sight of the larger project.”
Simultaneous to Farrand’s work on landscapes and carriage roads in the park, she and Rockefeller also were putting together the fabled East Asian Garden at the latter’s Seal Harbor estate, The Eyrie. References to both projects often are made in individual communications.
In all, the monograph makes it abundantly clear that the unique “natural” landscapes and views on Mount Desert Island that so powerfully resonate with residents and visitors alike often are far from accidental or a fortuitous coincidence of happenstance. They were planned, executed and tended with extraordinary intellect, craftsmanship and love.
As David Rockefeller surmises, “This is a study well worth reading not only because of the technical information provided, but it describes the impressive results that can be achieved when two committed individuals work together in a respectful way to achieve a common goal.”
Copies of “The Public Spirited Beatrix Farrand of Mount Desert Island,” which includes numerous photographs, maps and exhibits, are available at Garland Farm. The price is $40 for members, $45 for nonmembers. Copies also are available at www.beaxtrixfarrandsociety.org.