Bridge to a better life

To the Editor:

Everyone has a unique story that defines their childhood. No two are quite the same. My story is one of growing up in Bar Harbor. During that particular childhood, the fire that consumed Mount Desert Island, as detailed in the book, “Lost Bar Harbor,” served as a turning point for both Acadia and those who called Bar Harbor home.

As so often happens, opportunity emerged from the ashes of what had been the Bar Harbor of the Gilded Age.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. envisioned a motor bridge that spanned Duck Brook in order to connect the broader reaches of MDI with the wonders of Acadia. The contract for the eventual build-out of this magnificent bridge was awarded to Harold McQuinn as general contractor, a heavy construction company in business to this day. The project manager was my father who, like his colleagues, eventually came to call the bridge his own.

Rockefeller’s vision and support provided the segue for my father and the construction workers, stone masons, and contractors of the era to re-enter American society successfully at a time when many could not. Their re-entry was affected through the meaningful work that the building of Duck Brook Motor Bridge provided to those returning from service during WWII.

During the time of the bridge’s construction, my dad not only supervised its construction, but designed every piece of granite facing for it. Skilled stonecutters used his carefully rendered drawings, one for every stone, to make the granite facing.

The actual plans and blueprints for the bridge are available in the Department of the Interior library in Washington, D.C. Original photographs as well as original letters and communication are housed in the public library of Southwest Harbor. The oral history and provenance, if you will, continue to this day in the families of all of those skilled artisans whose efforts brought this bridge to reality.

Duck Brook Motor Bridge now, 64 years later, is visible from Route 3 only in winter. During summer months, when millions of visitors explore the wonders of Acadia, the bridge and its story are hidden from public view. There has been a great deal of dialogue in recent months about trimming the trees that obscure the bridge. At a time when $1 million is committed to the bridge’s long overdue maintenance and restoration, the trimming of the undergrowth that blocks it from being seen and appreciated is not considered a priority. Rather, any number of impediments, both real and imagined, stand in the way of what seems such a logical extension of its restoration.

I have been told by park officials, “This is not a project we intend to take on.” It would seem, as is so often the case, that descendants of those skilled artisans who might experience a sense of lasting contribution by having this hidden Acadia treasure revealed will be left to celebrate in silence.

The bridge is, in a sense, the manifestation of the dream of a better life. Those who did live through the hard, long and difficult years on MDI following World War II continue to be reticent to open up and discuss the challenges they faced.

Opening up views of the bridge reinforces for those who are associated with it that they, too, made outstanding and permanent contributions, not only to the history of this beautiful place but also to its future.

Is it, at the end of day, any wonder that what would give honor to so many will once again be denied just because it is possible to do so?

Mary Walker


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