Bar Harbor, Maine

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Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor from Bar Island
Bar Harbor from Bar Island
Official seal of Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor is located in Maine
Bar Harbor
Bar Harbor
Location in Maine
Bar Harbor is located in the United States
Bar Harbor
Bar Harbor
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 44°23′9″N 68°12′34″W / 44.38583°N 68.20944°W / 44.38583; -68.20944Coordinates: 44°23′9″N 68°12′34″W / 44.38583°N 68.20944°W / 44.38583; -68.20944
CountryUnited States
IncorporatedFebruary 23, 1796
Eden (until March 3, 1918)
Bar Harbor (from March 3, 1918)
Hamilton Station
Hulls Cove
Indian Point
Red Rock Corner
Salsbury Cove
Town Hill
 • TypeCouncil-Manager
 • ChairVal Peacock
 • Vice-ChairMatthew Hochman
 • Town ManagerKevin Sutherland
 • Total63.11 sq mi (163.45 km2)
 • Land42.24 sq mi (109.40 km2)
 • Water20.87 sq mi (54.05 km2)
 • Total5,089
 • Density120/sq mi (46.5/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
Area code(s)207

Bar Harbor is a resort town on Mount Desert Island in Hancock County, Maine, United States. As of the 2020 census, its population is 5,089.[3] During the summer and fall seasons, it is a popular tourist destination and, until a catastrophic fire in 1947, the town was a noted summer colony for the wealthy.

The town is home to the College of the Atlantic, Jackson Laboratory and MDI Biological Laboratory.

Bar Harbor is also home to the largest parts of Acadia National Park, including Cadillac Mountain, the highest point within 25 miles (40 km) of the coastline of the eastern United States.[4]

The town's main access road, from the north or south, is State Route 3, which is the coastal Eden Street taken from the Trenton Bridge. Upon entering the town limits from the north, Route 3 turns east onto Mount Desert Street, before turning south onto Main Street at Bar Harbor's Village Green. It then circumnavigates the eastern portion of Mount Desert Island. Two other streets link Route 3 to Main Street: West Street (the first visitors from the north see) and Cottage Street. Another principal road, Eagle Lake Road, leads west, from its intersection with Eden Street, Mount Desert Street and Kebo Street, into the national park.


The Abbe Museum features the history and culture of Maine's native people, the Wabanaki.

The town of Bar Harbor was founded on the northeast shore of Mount Desert Island, which the Wabanaki Indians knew as Pemetic, meaning "range of mountains" or "mountains seen at a distance." The Wabanaki seasonally fish, hunt and gather berries, clams, and other shellfish in the area. They speak of Bar Harbor as Man-es-ayd'ik ("clam-gathering place") or Ah-bays'auk ("clambake place"), leaving great piles of shells as evidence of this abundance. In early September 1604, French explorer Samuel de Champlain ran aground on a rock ledge believed to be Egg Rock, just off Otter Cliffs, and when he came ashore to repair his boat he met local natives. Champlain named the island Isles des Monts Deserts, meaning "island of barren mountains"—now called Mount Desert Island, the largest island in Maine.[5]

In 1761, Abraham Somes established the first European village on Mount Desert Island, naming it Somesville. Also named for him is Somes Sound, the only naturally occurring fjard on the East Coast of the United States. Bar Harbor itself was first settled by Europeans Israel Higgins and John Thomas in 1763 and incorporated on February 23, 1796, as Eden, after Sir Richard Eden, an English statesman.[6]

Early industries included fishing, lumbering and shipbuilding. With the best soil on Mount Desert Island, it also developed agriculture, with a main focus on dairy. In the 1840s, its rugged maritime scenery attracted the Hudson River School and Luminism artists Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, William Hart and Fitz Henry Lane. Inspired by their paintings, journalists, sportsmen and "rusticators" followed. Agamont House, the first hotel in Eden, was established in 1855 by Tobias Roberts. Birch Point, the first summer estate, was built in 1868 for Alpheus Harding.[6]

By 1880, there were 30 hotels, including the Mira Monte Inn, a historic landmark that survived a massive fire in 1947. Tourists were arriving by train and ferry to the Gilded Age resort that would rival Newport, Rhode Island. The rich and famous tried to outdo each other with entertaining and estates, often hiring landscape gardener and landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, a resident at local Reef Point Estate, to design their gardens. A glimpse of their lifestyles was available from the Shore Path, a coastal path skirting waterfront lawns. Yachting, garden parties at the Pot & Kettle Club, and carriage rides up Cadillac Mountain were popular diversions. Others enjoyed horse-racing at Robin Hood Park-Morrell Park. President William Howard Taft played golf in 1910 at the Kebo Valley Golf Club. He was the last sitting president to visit the town for a century thereafter, until Barack Obama's arrival in July 2010.[7]

On March 3, 1918, Eden was renamed Bar Harbor, after the sand and gravel bar, visible at low tide, which leads across to Bar Island and forms the rear of the harbor. The name would become synonymous with elite wealth. It was the birthplace of vice-president Nelson Rockefeller.[8][9]

The four-masted schooner Margaret Todd; Bald Porcupine Island is beyond the pier and the Bar Harbor Inn is to the right.

Bar Harbor was also used for naval practices during World War II. More specifically, Bald Porcupine Island (one of the five Porcupine Islands) was used to fire live torpedoes. In October 1944, the submarine USS Piper fired 12 live torpedoes at the island. Of those fired, one failed to explode on the first attempt but was later detonated by the twelfth torpedo.[10] In 1996, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers surveyed all 30 acres of Bald Porcupine Island for unexploded ordnance. Nine were found.[11]

Many influential people have called Bar Harbor home for at least part of the year. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., son of John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil Co., donated about one-third of the land in Acadia National Park and built the carriage roads that are used for hiking and biking. J. P. Morgan owned a house that is adjacent to the town. Cornelius Vanderbilt built cottages in Bar Harbor, while the Astor family owned hotels and cottages in Bar Harbor and the surrounding areas. The co-founder and CEO of Burt's Bees, Roxanne Quimby, has a home near Bar Harbor, and Martha Stewart has also been known to frequent Mount Desert Island and has been seen in Bar Harbor.[12]

Mount Desert Island fire[edit]

In mid-October 1947, Maine experienced a severe drought, seeing only half of its usual rainfall.[13] On October 17, sparks at a cranberry bog near Town Hill ignited a wildfire that intensified over the next ten days, due to strong winds that began on October 21,[13] and it was not declared out until mid-November. This was one of several wildfires in the state that year. Nearly half the eastern side of Mount Desert Island burned, including 67 "cottages"[14]—around a third of the 222 cottages that stood at the time. (Many were empty or for sale; only 135 were occupied that summer.)[14] Five historic grand hotels were also destroyed. These were Agamont House (Main Street), Hamor House (Main Street at Cottage Street), Belmont Hotel (Mount Desert and Kebo Streets), Malvern Hotel (Kebo Street) and the DeGregoire Hotel (Eden Street at West Street).[14] The Building of Arts civic building, on Kebo Street at Cromwell Harbor Road, also perished.[14]

Over 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) of Acadia National Park were destroyed.[13] The town's business district was spared, including Mount Desert Street, where several former summer homes within a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places operate as inns.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 63.11 square miles (163.45 km2), of which 42.24 square miles (109.40 km2) is land and 20.87 square miles (54.05 km2) is water.[2] Bar Harbor is situated on Frenchman Bay.

Frenchman Bay and islands and the area around the town of Bar Harbor viewed from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park


This climatic region is typified by large seasonal temperature differences, with warm to hot (and often humid) summers and cold (sometimes severely cold) winters. According to the Köppen climate classification system, Bar Harbor has a humid continental climate, abbreviated "Dfb" on climate maps.[15] Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island are located near the coastline and surrounded by the North American continent to the northeast and southwest. This location, combined with prevailing winds that are not from the Atlantic, gives Bar Harbor a continental climate with very cold winters for an island location at such a low latitude.

Climate data for Bar Harbor, Maine
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 63
Average high °F (°C) 31.4
Daily mean °F (°C) 22.6
Average low °F (°C) 13.7
Record low °F (°C) −20
Average precipitation inches (mm) 4.9
Average snowfall inches (cm) 16.7
Average precipitation days 11 9 10 10 10 10 9 8 9 9 10 10 115
Source: Weatherbase[16]


Historical population
Census Pop.

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[18] of 2010, there were 5,235 people, 2,427 households, and 1,275 families residing in the town. The population density was 123.9 inhabitants per square mile (47.8/km2). There were 3,495 housing units at an average density of 82.7 per square mile (31.9/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 94.7% White, 0.8% African American, 0.2% Native American, 2.8% Asian, 0.4% from other races, and 1.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.1% of the population.

There were 2,427 households, of which 22.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.8% were married couples living together, 6.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 47.5% were non-families. 36.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.08 and the average family size was 2.70.

The median age in the town was 45.3 years. 17.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 10% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 22.4% were from 25 to 44; 32.3% were from 45 to 64; and 18.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the town was 46.3% male and 53.7% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[19] of 2000, there were 4,820 people, 2,142 households, and 1,163 families residing in or near the town. The population density was 114.2 people per square mile (44.1/km2). There were 2,805 housing units at an average density of 66.5 per square mile (25.7/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.88% White, 0.15% Black or African American, 0.21% Native American, 0.89% Asian, 0.08% from other races, and 0.79% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.62% of the population.

There were 2,142 households, out of which 24.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.5% were married couples living together, 6.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.7% were non-families. 34.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16 and the average family size was 2.78.

In and near the town, the population was spread out, with 19.8% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 26.6% from 45 to 64, and 16.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.7 males.

The median income for a household in or near the town was $37,481, and the median income for a family was $51,989. Males had a median income of $31,085 versus $25,417 for females. The per capita income for the area was $24,103. About 4.9% of families and 8.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.7% of those under age 18 and 8.3% of those age 65 or over.


Conners Emerson School, founded in 1962, is located in Bar Harbor, serving students of grades K through 8.

Mount Desert Island High School serves the four towns of Mount Desert Island, plus the outlying islands of Swans Island and the town of Cranberry Isles. The school also serves students from towns such as Trenton, Hancock, Lamoine and Mariaville on the mainland.

The College of the Atlantic is located in Bar Harbor, on Route 3.


The town is served by the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport, which provides year-round direct flights to Boston, Massachusetts.

Bar Harbor has historically served as a port for ferry service to Nova Scotia, though the town has not had active service since 2009.[20]

In the fall of 2018, it was announced that The Cat, a high-speed vessel operated between Portland, Maine, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, by Bay Ferries Limited, would have its route changed and begin departing from Bar Harbor.[20][21] Service along this new route was originally expected to begin in summer 2019, but was delayed due to construction work at the Bar Harbor marina.[20] Service was then canceled during both the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[22] As of 2021, Bay Ferry's website indicates intention for The CAT to begin Bar Harbor service in the near future.[23]


Main Street during the 2010 summer tourist season

Recreational activities abound in Bar Harbor. The downtown is particularly alive in the summer and fall months due to its proximity to Acadia National Park. Outdoor activities in Acadia include hiking along trails or carriage roads, biking along the carriage roads, bird watching, and mountain climbing, with Cadillac Mountain being the highest point on the Atlantic seaboard.

Those interested in the marine life surrounding Mount Desert Island can go to the marina at the end of Main Street and sign up for tours that feature puffins, whales, seals, seabirds, and lighthouses, or for a general nature cruise.

At low tide a sand bar is exposed that links the town to Bar Island.

In 2012, the American Planning Association named the Village Green as one of their top ten Great Places in America for Public Spaces.[24]

Cruise ships arrive in the harbor from May through October (most often in September), with 154 ship visits and more than 222,000 passengers in 2018. The forecast for 2019 was 176 ship visits and more than 254,000 passengers.[25] Bar Harbor also hosts many long-distance cyclists, as it is the eastern terminus of the Adventure Cycling Association's Northern Tier Bicycle Route (Anacortes, Washington, is the western terminus), and the northern terminus of its Atlantic Coast Bicycle Route (Key West, Florida, is the southern terminus).

Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium, on Main Street (across from Cottage Street), is a popular location due to its lobster-flavored ice cream.[26] It also has a lobster statue at its storefront.

In popular culture[edit]

Bar Harbor is featured in the 2007 book The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan as the setting of Westover Hall, a boarding school.

The Far Harbor add-on for the video game Fallout 4 is located on Mount Desert Island, with Bar Harbor being in a location on the island congruent with the main settlement in the game.[27]

Notable people[edit]

American Civil War monument "In memory of Eden's sons who were defenders of the Union." Eden was the original name of Bar Harbor, from 1796 to 1918.


  1. ^ "Town Hall". August 11, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-12-16.
  3. ^ "Census - Geography Profile: Bar Harbor town, Hancock County, Maine". Retrieved January 12, 2022.
  4. ^ "Cadillac Mountain". U.S. National Park Service. 2004-10-28. Archived from the original on 2006-02-07. Retrieved 2008-03-22.
  5. ^ For a freely accessible digital text on Wabanaki culture and history, see Asticou's Island Domain: Wabanaki Peoples at Mount Desert Island 1500-2000 Archived August 29, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, by Harald E. L. Prins and Bunny McBride (National Park Service, 2007)
  6. ^ a b "Town History". Bar Harbor Historical Society. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  7. ^ "Obama family spends active day on MDI'Bangor Daily News, July 16, 2010
  8. ^ Morris 1960, p. 7.
  9. ^ Persico 1982, p. 23.
  10. ^ "Piper (SS-409) (AGSS-409)". NavSource History.
  11. ^ "Conclusions and Recommendations for the Former Naval Ordnance Facility Bald Porcupine Island, Bar Harbor, Maine" (PDF). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. December 1996. Archived from the original on 2003-08-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  12. ^ "The Influential, The Famous & The Celebrities of Downeast Maine - Bar Harbor Maine and the Acadia National Park Regions". downeastmaineonline. Archived from the original on 2013-07-17. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
  13. ^ a b c "Fire of 1947". National Park Service. December 14, 2015. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  14. ^ a b c d Lost Bar Harbor, G.W. Helfrich and Gladys O'Neil (Down East Books, 1982)
  15. ^ "Climate Summary for Bar Harbor, Maine". CantyMedia. Archived from the original on 2019-12-19. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  16. ^ "Bar Harbor, Maine: Monthly Weather Averages Summary". CantyMedia. Archived from the original on 2019-12-22. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  17. ^ "Hancock and town Bar Harbor". Archived from the original on 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2016-05-10., accessed March, 2010.
  18. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-12-16.
  19. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  20. ^ a b c "Maine-Nova Scotia ferry service further delayed". News Center Maine. Associated Press. 16 July 2019. Retrieved 14 October 2021.
  21. ^ "Future of Portland's ferry service remains uncertain". News Center Maine. Associated Press. 24 November 2021. Retrieved 14 October 2021.
  22. ^ Mannino, Gabrielle (4 February 2021). "For 3rd year, ferry from Maine to Nova Scotia is canceled". News Center Maine. Retrieved 14 October 2021.
  23. ^ "Schedule". Bay Ferries. 26 February 2020. Retrieved 14 October 2021.
  24. ^ "2012 Great Public Spaces". American Planning Association. Archived from the original on September 29, 2017. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  25. ^ "Cruise Tourism & Traffic Congestion in Bar Harbor: Improving the Visitor & Resident Experience". Operations & Maritime LLC. July 15, 2019. p. 7. Archived from the original on January 8, 2020. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  26. ^ "Best bets for Bar Harbor"Times Union, September 3, 2021
  27. ^ Dave Thier (Forbes, May 12, 2016). The Real Bar Harbor Couldn't Be Happier About Fallout 4's 'Far Harbor'
  28. ^ "David Rockefeller's Maine summer home sells for $19 million". February 8, 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]