In the 1840s, two young painters put the quiet fishing village of Eden (later known as Bar Harbor) on the map as their magnificent artwork proclaimed the beauties of the quaint, coastal retreat to the world. The paintings of Thomas Cole and Fredric Church of the Hudson River Valley School of Painting found their way into popular East Coast salons, inspiring people to journey Down East and see for themselves the island that had inspired such beautiful canvasses.
The first visitors to Eden stayed with local farmers and fishermen in crude housing. Soon, the demand for better lodging facilities increased as wealthier travelers journeyed to the Island. Consequently, grand hotels quickly began to sprout up and by 1875, there were 16 hotels in town that were often booked two years in advance.
In 1866, David Rodick built a small guesthouse on his property to welcome summer visitors. A large addition was built in 1875 and with the final expansion in 1881, the Rodick House was advertised as the largest hotel in Maine. It included 400 guest rooms, dining facilities for 1000 and a renowned watering hole known as the “Fish Pond.” The 1881 Rodick House is the inspiration for the design of the current Bar Harbor Grand Hotel. In the late 1800s, Eden had become a haven for the rich and famous. Visitors included the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Vanderbilts, Astors and Fords. Lavish parties, grand yachting adventures, tennis matches and golf were the pleasures of the day.
Toward the end of the 1800s, the golden hotel era began to decline as wealthy travelers began to construct their own lavish summer estates. The Rodick House itself was demolished in 1906. In 1947, a great fire changed the face of Mount Desert Island, destroying most of the remaining spectacular hotels and grand summer cottages. It took five days to bring the fire under control — five days that ended the golden hotel and cottage era. In 1951, the Bar Harbor Inn was the first hotel to open its doors to guests after the fire.
Fortunately, the land rebounded quickly, and what we now know as Acadia National Park is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Today, Acadia draws more visitors per acre than any other National Park in the United States. The Bar Harbor Grand Hotel opened in July, 2003, designed as a replica of David Rodick’s 1881 Rodick House. The hotel revisits and reinvents the grand tradition of the golden hotel era.