Posted on July 27, 2018
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more information regarding purchasing the Fales House on Zekes Point, follow this link: Davidson Realty.