Eagle Island (Casco Bay, Maine)
Peary's house on Eagle Island
|Nearest city||Harpswell, Maine|
|Area||17 acres (6.9 ha)|
|NRHP Reference #||71000069 |
|Added to NRHP||November 23, 1971|
|Designated NHL||August 25, 2014|
Eagle Island is a State Historic Site in the United States state of Maine. It is an island in Casco Bay that is the site of the retirement home of the noted polar explorer Admiral Robert Peary (1856-1920). Peary bought the island in 1881 and retired there in 1911, after he had achieved fame and glory with his (sometimes disputed) expedition to the North Pole. His family continued to live in the house he built there, but donated the island to the people of Maine in 1955. The island is part of the town of Harpswell, in Cumberland County, and is located about 12 miles (19 km) northeast of Portland. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and declared a National Historic Landmark in 2014.
Description and building history
Eagle Island is a small 17-acre (6.9 ha) in the outermost portion of the archipelago of islands that make up Casco Bay. Admininstratively part of Harpswell, it is 12 miles (19 km) northeast of Portland and 15 miles (24 km) south of Brunswick. The island has a maximum height of 40 feet (12 m) above sea level, and is rocky with a thin layer of topsoil. Most of the island is covered with conifers and brush; there are trails providing access to most of the island. At the northern end of the island is a Y-shaped clearing in which the site's buildings are located, and a small beach area with a long wooden pier. There are three major structures on the island in addition to the pier: the Peary house, a caretaker's cabin, and a small visitor's center. The pier was constructed in 1969, and the visitor's center in 2012. There are gardens, originally planted by Mrs. Peary, which are now maintained by park staff.
The island was purchased by Admiral Robert Peary in 1881. The Peary House is a wood frame house, built in several stages. The original portion of the house was built in 1904, and consisted of a rectangular structure with a single large living room on the first floor and three bedrooms on the second floor. Meals were prepared in the caretaker's house, an apparently inadequate situation that prompted the construction of a small kitchen and dining wing in 1906. A new fieldstone foundation with concrete piers was built, raising the structure onto a full-height basement, and shed-roof dormers were added to each side of the gabled roof. Following his retirement, Peary embarked on a further expansion of the building in 1912-13. The 1906 kitchen wing was detached, and a new expanded wing added, with a porch on three sides. Peary also built a pair circular stone bastions, which served in part as a retaining wall to keep the house from being blown into the water during stormy weather. One of these bastions Peary used to house his artifact collection from his many expeditions.
After Peary's death in 1920, his family made only modest alterations before giving the property to the state in 1967. The state built the pier, and undertook restoration of the property, which had suffered deterioration due to the weather. A portion of the Peary house's roof caved in in 1990, resulting in water damage to Peary's study, and necessitating reconstruction of that part of the house.
- List of National Historic Landmarks in Maine
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Cumberland County, Maine
- List of islands of Maine
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- "Secretary Jewell and Director Jarvis Announced Nine New National Historic Landmarks Highlighting America’s Diverse History and Culture". National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-01-08.
- "NHL nomination for Eagle Island" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-01-08.
- Eagle Island State Historic Site - official site
- Website of the Friends of Eagle Island
- Article about Eagle Island State Historic Site