BAR HARBOR — Contractors for the Maine Department of Transportation are taking apart historic pier stones that mark locations of estates burned in the Fire of ’47 and setting them back farther.
During the community advisory process for the current reconstruction of Route 3, a number of residents asked that the pier stones remain along the roadway. MDOT spokesperson Ted Talbot said the pier stones will be set back behind a multiuse path that will run from the ferry terminal property to West Street.
There also will be a fence — similar to the fence at Hulls Cove Schoolhouse — between the travel lanes and the path, Talbot said.
The pier stones are being sawed apart by a crew from Freshwater Stone, picked up by a crane and set into wooden molds. Each pillar is being moved straight back from its original location. The distance they’ll need to move varies from 1 to 10 feet.
Village Improvement Association President Dick Cough said he is thrilled the pillars are being preserved and rebuilt.
“Anything anyone can do to bring the past back is important to a [tourist-based] economy like ours,” he said in an email last week. “The new multi-use path is going to get tons of walkers and sightseers from the college, the hotels and possibly cruise ship passengers … . This work can only add authenticity to our gateway and make this walk even better.”
Cough said the VIA is hoping to add 10 “Museum in the Streets” panels along the multiuse path.
Edith Milbury, an Eden Street resident with pier stones on her property, said she was part of the Bar Harbor Route 3 gateway project advisory committee that served as a liaison between the community and the MDOT.
“We worked hard with MDOT to make sure [the stones] were preserved,” “We are a National Historic District, so we are extremely interested in preserving history.”
Milbury’s property, known as “Villa Mary,” has seven pier stones on its waterfront and has roadside pier stones as well. The home’s name is not engraved on the stones.
Villa Mary sits across the street from pier stones marked “Rock Brook.” Some other properties marked by the stones along the street are Mizzentop, Bowling Green and Clovercroft.
The Harbor Lane – Eden Street Historic District was incorporated into the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service in June 2009. It features 16 properties that were “significant” from 1879-1947, according to the application.
Deborah Dyer, curator at the Bar Harbor Historical Society, said her organization had lobbied the MDOT in support of keeping the pillars intact.
Dyer’s aunt and uncle, David and Kathleen Higginbotham, were the last owners of Rock Brook before the property burned in 1947, she said. Dyer, not yet born, was told stories of the property by her mother.
“My mother used to say you could hear the rain coming down the stone wall,” she said.
Dyer said the police and fire department came knocking on the Higginbothams’ door on the day of the fire to evacuate the area and her aunt. Kathleen Higginbotham, an industrious soul, did not want to leave because her spring cleaning wasn’t done.
Luckily, she, her husband and her son, who was on the island to help fight the fires, all evacuated safely.