Community Forum: Stepping up to be stewards

By Ron Beard and friends


If we were to go back in time to visit Bar Harbor just after the Civil War, we’d see quite a different community. Visitors were beginning to arrive, entranced with this island’s natural wonders as seen in paintings by Thomas Cole and Frederic Church. Hotels replaced boarding houses, and early “rusticators” were buying land.

Amidst this early growth, in the summer of 1873, outbreaks of typhoid and scarlet fever were blamed on poor drinking water. By the next year, the Bar Harbor Water Company had engineered a new system to bring clean water to town from Eagle Lake.

A few years later, the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association was formed, according to its first annual report, “to carry out such work of amelioration and adornment as might from time to time be suggested to science and good taste, in order to bring the village itself into a greater conformity with its beautiful environment.”

We might recognize the names of early members: Sherman, Lynam, Amory, Jesup, Deasy, Hamor, Rodick, Gurnee, Dorr, Vanderbilt — a mix of year-round and summer residents.

Other enduring institutions trace their history to the visionary leaders of that era: the MDI Hospital, the YMCA, the YWCA and the Jesup Library. Five generations of year-round and summer residents have benefited from their foresight and stewardship.

And those relationships quickly generated successive community and private investments to create Acadia National Park, the Jackson Laboratory, the MDI Biological Laboratory, the Abbe Museum, and more recently, College of the Atlantic and Friends of Acadia.

Over the years, public investments have kept pace, assuring better transportation, improved water and sewer service, public safety and schools. Collectively, these investments in science, culture, education and public service are hallmarks of Mount Desert Island, part of the fabric of life enjoyed by all.

Early philanthropy seemed to be carried easily on the shoulders of rusticators and local business folks. People like George B. Dorr, Fred C. Lynam, Luere Desey and Maria Jesup established institutions of and for our community.

As those folks left the scene, new leaders stepped forward to sustain their legacy over the last century. Now it is our turn to shore up those foundations and carry forward for the next 100 years.

Whether you can trace your roots back to these early leaders and their peers or whether you got here as soon as you could, as year-rounders, retirees or summer residents, there is a role for you, supporting and stewarding community anchors and newer partnerships with your time, creativity and financial support, contributing to the quality of our lives now and investing for five (or more) generations.

Good people are already engaged in this rewarding work. We hope you will join in.

Ron Beard is chairman of the Jesup Library Board and secretary of the College of the Atlantic Board of Trustees. Dick Cough is president of the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association. Kim Swan is a board member of the Bar Harbor Historical Society. Ruth Eveland is director of the Jesup Memorial Library.


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