Village Green: Bar Harbor, Maine
The ritzy summer resort town of Bar Harbor, Maine, once home to aristocratic families including the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and Astors, contains the lush Village Green in its historic core. During the city's Gilded Age, the short-lived Grand Central Hotel occupied this corner of Main and Mount Desert streets, but changing times led to the hotel's demolition and the land's rebirth as public space in 1899.
The Green is bounded by Main Street, Mount Desert Street, Kennebec Street, and Firefly Lane.
The development of Acadia National Park, which provides a year-long scenic backdrop for Village Green visitors, was the impetus needed for changes undertaken by the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association. For a number of years the bandstand was the green's only amenity, but a visit by President William Howard Taft and his subsequent speech from the site in 1910 spurred a desire for further development.
In the 1920s, Beatrix Farrand, a nationally renowned landscape architect whose projects include the Rose Garden at the White House, designed the pathways, the rebuilding of the bandstand in a new location, and the landscaping arrangements seen today. The steady infill of quaint inns and cafes that surround the green, as well as the century-old tradition of free summer concerts at the bandstand, solidified the Village Green's picturesque charm and friendly atmosphere.
Today, visitors dash in and out of the businesses around the green, pausing for a short time to enjoy the well-manicured grounds or relaxing for an afternoon under the tree canopy while they use the free Wi-Fi. The bisecting pathways encourage people to cut through the park instead of walking around it, whether to grab lunch or catch the Island Explorer from the green's bus plaza.
Defining Characteristics, Features
- The Grand Central Hotel, built in this spot in 1873, is demolished by the city and the land leased to the Village Improvement Association in 1899
- During 1920s famous landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, a founder of the American Society of Landscape Architects, re-envisions the green; her designs remain to this day
- In 1999, local landscape architect Sam Coplon begins a six-year renovation plan for the Village Green; includes new granite seating wall along Main Street, construction of Island Explorer bus plaza, tree pruning, replanting flower beds
Historical Artifacts, Modern Amenities
- Bar Harbor's original street clock from 1896 on eastern edge of the green near Main Street
- 17th century tiered Italian fountain with 21 spigots, donated by John Livingston (1909), restored 1992 by distinguished sculptor Clark Fitz-Gerald after not operating for 30 years
- Bus plaza occupying a portion of the Green on Kennebec Street is the central staging area for the free Island Explorer, which provides transportation to places of interest throughout island including Acadia National Park
- Historically appropriate lighting, benches, free Wi-Fi encourage visitors to stay and enjoy Village Green's beautiful serenity year-round
Center of Culture, Events
- Saint Saviour's Episcopal Church, built in 1878, sits west of the Village Green on Mt. Desert Street; oldest, largest, and tallest building on Mount Desert Island; added to the National Register of Historic Places (1995)
- Cafe This Way, 14 1/2 Mt. Desert Street, is a "Fresh and Lively" restaurant located adjacent to Village Green; serves an eclectic menu from a white summer cottage
- Acadia Hotel, built 1884 as a private home, still retains its "homey place" charm; anchors historic corridor across Mt. Desert Street
- Art shows, including Art by the Sea in June and Art in the Park in September, highlight local artistic talent and fill green with art, much of it depicting the local landscape
- Winter tree lighting and Santa appearances at green in December a favorite of residents