Maine’s Acadia National Park mixes ocean, forest, and mountains in combinations of legendary beauty. It is a product of the tenacity of one George Dorr, a Bostonian with an inherited textile fortune who began acquiring land in the area after establishing a home on Mount Desert Island (on which most of the park is located). In 1901, Dorr was contacted by Charles Eliot, the president of Harvard, whose son had started the first land trust in America a decade earlier (see 1890 entry). Eliot was promoting another private land trust, to protect this scenic section of Maine coast. Dorr soon found himself at the head of the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations. He donated tracts of his own land, and tirelessly encouraged his neighbors to donate others. In 1908, he and another trustee bought the summit of Cadillac Mountain. By 1913, the “reservation” totaled over 5,000 acres. (Dorr meanwhile had to battle attempts by the state government to hamstring his group by revoking its nonprofit status.) In 1919 the property became Lafayette National Park—the first in the East, and the first created from privately donated lands. Dorr continued to expand and improve the park, which was renamed Acadia in 1929. Dorr’s friend and neighbor John Rockefeller Jr. donated 10,700 acres to the property, and spent $3.5 million of his own money to create an immaculate network of 45 miles of horse-drawn carriage road, including 17 granite bridges, that shows the island at its best. It is still used today for hiking and biking. Acadia National Park currently covers 47,000 acres, and more than 2 million Americans enjoy its rugged beauty every year.
- PBS profile, pbs.org/nationalparks/parks/acadia
- George Dorr, The Story of Acadia National Park (Acadia Publishing, 1985)