The Beech Nut Hut stands on top of Beech Hill in western Rockport.

A young Teddy Roosevelt filled the shelves of his room on East 20th St. in Manhattan with stuffed birds, squirrels, and mice in an attempt to satisfy his obsession with nature, while life in the streets below his window was grimy, noisy and crowded- quite a contrast from his life at Sagamore Hill in the country. By the mid 1800’s America’s big East Coast cities were overcrowded- and the cacophony of success rang throughout their streets.

Franklin Roosevelt as a Rusticator at Campobello island.

By the 1840’s Transcendentalism was reaching religious status as poets like Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of the blessings upon America of a richness of nature and beauty, and artists of the Hudson River School such as Thomas Cole, John Frederick Kensett, Fitz Henry Lane and Albert Bierstadt painted a picture of America that was nothing short of utopia.

Sunrise on the Maine Coast Mount Desert Island by Fitz Hugh Lane. Oil. 1856.

Approaching Thunderstorm by Martin Johnson Heade. Oil, 1859.

Before long, those who could, sought to escape the hot and odoriferous cities to discover their own bucolic paradise. Thomas Durant would build a railroad that ended in the wilderness of the Adirondacks and the 19th century version of “glamping” had been established.

Two young Rusticators exploring Newport.

Open Camp, watercolor, artist unknown, 1888. Adirondack Museum (88.113). Photograph curtesy of the Adirondack Museum, Eric Borg photographer.

Colonel Loring’s Ausable Club.

River boat transportation bringing guests to the wilderness camp of Utowona at the Marion River Carry.

“Bishop’s Palace,” Camp Wild Air, Upper St. Regis Lake, c. 1895. The Whiteclaw Reid family named the small cottage for Episcopal clerics who sometimes stayed in it. Photograph by Craig Gilborn, 1989.

Soon wealthy individuals would begin to build “camps”, often vast and complex compounds of logs and rustic stone to accommodate hunting parties. The Adirondack wilderness would become a sporting mecca and cool mountain respites like the Berkshires would become country outpost of the cultured set.

An illustration of fashionable party goers dining in the branches of a tree is a glimmering of the implications. Illustrated London News. October 19, 1872.

In the beginning it was the sportsmen and artists that blazed the way, then journalist followed. Soon, others would begin to board ships and head up the coast to the rocky, sea sprayed coast of Down East Maine. These escapees would become known as the “Rusticators”.

Another Horse Show, including socialites such as the Ford’s and Rockefeller’s children.

1.193. Cow Cove, Watercolor sketch. Courtesy of Memorial Library, Boston Architectural College.

In 1855, the first hotel was established on Mount Desert Island, by the 1880’s there were 30 and Bar Harbor would rival Newport as society’s Gilded Age get away. The rich and famous would attempt to out shine one another with one grand estate after another and Rusticator Camps would reach grand proportions.

The Chatwold House of Joseph Pulitzer by Boston architects Rotch and Tilden. Custom additions due to Joseph’s ailments were designed by architects McKim, Mead & White.

1.203. Westward Way, waterfront facade. Courtesy of Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

1. 209. Highwoods, watercolor sketch. Courtesy of Memorial Library, Boston Architectural College.

Luminaries such as the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts would hire famous landscape architects such as Beatrix Ferrand and architects such as Fred Savage, Peabody and Stern and Delano and Aldrich to create masterpieces among nature.

Plate 17 “Church of St. Sylvia [Mount Desert, ME],” by William Ralph Emerson in American Architect and Building News, Vol. 9, No. 287, June 25, 1881. (AIA Archives).

1.116. Coldbrook, garden view. Lenox, East Lee, MAssachusetts, 1886. E.A. Morley, photographer.

After the Civil War and the collapse of the fishing industry, the rich and the upper middle class alike began to purchase their of slice of heaven along the shores of Maine and to build their own summer cottages; New Yorkers in Mount Desert, Philadelphians in Camden and Bostonians in North Haven.

George B. Dorr (far right) standing before the Bubbles of Acadia National Park, 1923. Dorr fought for federal protection of the National Park against Maine legislators.

As railroads developed, grand hotels both along the coast and inland swelled with tourists.  They offered golf and dancing, and excessive menus featuring trout and venison, accompanied by the music of a string quartet.

“Hotel, Cushings Island, ME,” Clarence Luce, Architecture and Building, Vol. 7, No. 4, July 23, 1887. (AIC)

Prospect House at Blue Mountain Lake.

Poland Spring House, South Poland, Maine summer post card.

A post card of Kearsarge Hotel, York Beach, Maine.

Eventually, many of the grand hotels burned down, never to be replaced, as the automobile offered a wider range of destinations. Today you can still find the decedents of the Rusticator’s wiling their summer days away on the porches of the old shingle houses, or at yacht club cocktail parties and regattas of the old wooden sailboats left behind. The tradition of “summering” in Maine remains strong. After all these years, escaping daily modern life for the quiet life by the sea still remains irresistible.

Under the mute gaze of trophies, the interiors of a Rangeley Lake fishing club are layered with decades of humble reminders of the pleasures and intricacies of fishing in a wilderness setting.

The interior of designer Libby Cameron’s Family Maine Cottage.

Some old Rusticator estates remain intact, such as the Fales House on Zekes Point overlooking the Fox Island Thoroughfare. Although, all original elements down to 100 yr old racing pendants remain, this house could use an owner that appreciates it’s unique architectural character and history.

(left) Victorian Iron beds in the guest house of the Fales house face a view with no windows- refined rustic living. (right) The chart room.

The living room displays many trophies of the sporting life.

(left) The rustic shingle style of the Fale’s residence on island of Vinalhaven. (right) The facade facing the thoroughfare.

For more information regarding purchasing the Fales House on Zekes Point, follow this link: Davidson Realty.