West Streetís Wonders
Take a Tour of Bar Harborís Historic District
by Sherry Rasmussen
Bar Harbor is one of Maineís most walkable villages. A favorite stroll from the Town Pier is the westerly walk along West Street toward the West Street Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and featuring 25 acres with 17 properties.
You will walk on the shore side of West Street along a brick and board promenade which has the official name of Harborview Park. Sit for a while and enjoy the view. Along the waterfront you will enjoy amenities of the present day resort community including accommodations, shops, a museum and restaurants. The harbor is home to private boats, recreational boating tours and the traditional fishing and lobstering fleets.
Pause when you get to the Harborside Hotel and Marina to again enjoy a view of the harbor. Continue on until you reach the hotelís sign. Pause and look across the street at a small cottage of note. Thankful Cottage is the white, gambrel roofed building tucked away just off West Street. Built circa 1850 as a home for working people, the oldest small building in the downtown was saved from demolition by a relocation and rehabilitation.
As you continue west you enter the West Street Historic District. In the bygone days of the Cottage Era, it was the practice to name the summer cottages. Each of the 17 properties located in the twenty-five acres of the district is named and each has itís own unique story. Please be mindful that most of the properties on West Street are private homes. These properties must be viewed and enjoyed from the public walkways. As you continue to walk west on the north side, or shore side, look across to the properties on the south side.†Please respect the privacy of the residents. Do not go onto private properties for a closer look.
Just past the Harborside, you arrive at one of Bar Harborís most famous buildings, the Bar Harbor Club, built in 1929. Visited by both diplomats and royalty, the half-timbered, gable roofed Tudor Revival was the meeting place and center of recreational activities for the movers and shakers of the day. The clubís 1930 hard cover brochure shows among its one hundred and ten charter members Edsel Ford, Atwater Kent, Joseph Pulitzer, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Edward T. Stotesbury and Potter Palmer. The present club has undergone an extensive renovation. Today, the Bar Harbor Club houses the original ballroom with stage, meeting rooms, a spa and a public restaurant. Be sure to check out the menu.
Directly opposite the Bar Harbor Club is the 1887 Queen Ann Manor House Inn. The building was contracted exclusively for summer rental and has always served the purpose of graceful hospitality to summer visitors.
Continue walking to Bridge Street but do not cross. Note three more private homes before Bridge Street. West of the Bar Harbor Club where you are now standing is the 1879 Rosebriar remodeled as a Colonial Revival. On the opposite side, west of the Manor House, is the 1878 Queen Ann Foster Cottage. West of the Foster Cottage is the first of the cottages to be erected in the West Street District, the 1877 Queen Anne Petunia Cottage.
The next private home, aptly named Westbridge, is an 1887 Shingle Style. To see this home, the only one not abutting West Street, turn right and walk down Bridge Street toward the water. Please remember that the privately owned Westbridge must be viewed only from Bridge Street or from the exposed bar looking back to the home.
Why is there not a bridge to be seen on Bridge Street? Its former name, Bar Street, more closely reflects its true nature. A sand bar appears twice daily at low tide and is passable at each low tide for approximately fours hours. Never cross the bar without knowing the time of the low tides. As soon as a path appears on the bar before the official low tide, it is safe to walk across. Be sure to head back no later than one and a half hours after the official low tide. Otherwise, you will be stranded on the island until the next low tide! Notice that the bar leading to Bar Island forms the harbor giving the village its name: Bar Harbor. Walking the bar and exploring the island, owned by Acadia National Park, is a favorite pastime of residents and visitors. But, why Bridge?† Former inhabitants had hoped to build a bridge making the island easily accessible anytime. That bridge was never built.
Now, you have the opportunity to walk the bar, if exposed, or to continue along West Street. To continue the West Street walk, turn and head back up Bridge Street pausing at the western corner of West and Bridge. The Shingle Style private home with white shutters is the 1911 The Sunset. Across West street on the opposite corner is the oldest structure in the district.† The 1870 Mansard The Kedge was moved from the Shore Path to its West Street location in 1886. It is also a private home.
Walking along, you will pass a†contemporary home before arriving at the warm yellow 1887 Colonial Revival The Tides, an exquisite Bed and Breakfast. For a moment look to the expansive private lawn sloping down to the waters of the bay.
Pausing at the Tides look across the street at the next two homes located west of the Kedge, the 1887 Shingle Style Chantier† followed by the 1886 Queen Anne Maisonette. Both are private homes. West of The Tides is the 1887 Queen Anne Saltaire†lovingly restored as an ocean side Bed and Breakfast. Look across the street to the privately owned 1901 Shingle Style Westfield followed by the privately owned 1901 Shingle Style The Crossways.
Walking again you come to the privately owned 1887 Shingle Style Greenlawn followed by the privately owned 1896 Colonial Revival The Breezes.
Last of the 17 properties is the French Renaissance chateau La Rochelle built in 1903.††Donated to the Maine Sea Coast Mission, it has served since 1972†as headquarters of the mission. Restored in 2001 to its former grandeur, it is now known as simply the Mission House.
ďThe Maine Sea Coast Mission is a non-denominational, nonprofit organization that serves as a source of hope, encouragement, and strength for individuals, families and communities from mid to Downeast coastal Maine.Ē
You have now walked the West Street Historic District. What now? You can return by West Street to the shopping and dining streets of West, Cottage, Main and Mt. Desert Streets or turn right at the corner of West and Eden Streets (Route 3) for the short walk to the campus of the College of the Atlantic. The beautiful campus grounds include an art gallery, The Blum, as well as the Natural History Museum, both open to the pubic.
Continue to explore on your own the nooks and crannies of this beautiful coastal village. Enjoy!