Compass Harbor Trail leads to missing mansion at Acadia National Park

It’s easy to sense the spirit of park visonary George B. Dorr at the Compass Harbor Trail at Acadia National Park.

Visitors can climb the granite stairs to the ruins of Dorr’s old estate – called Old Farm – and wade into the same deep inlet where Dorr took his regular swims.

Seventy years after his death, people can get the same breathtaking views of Frenchman Bay that Dorr enjoyed each morning and walk along the same granite-lined shore and cobblestone beach.

Dorr, a key founder of Acadia and the park’s first superintendent, lived on the grounds at Compass Harbor and died there on Aug. 5, 1944 at age 90.

Dorr’s estate was constructed by his wealthy Boston-based parents on land they bought in 1868 and finally became part of the park two years before he died. The sprawling family homestead survived the great fire of 1947, but shortly after that, the federal government found it too expensive to maintain and razed the property.

A tour of the Compass Harbor trail at Acadia National Park

Former Acadia National Park volunteer Jim Allen, standing to the far right, leads a tour of George Dorr’s “Missing Mansion” on the Compass Harbor trail. A cruise ship and Bald Porcupine Island are in the background.

People can still find a couple of old foundations and other stone remains of Old Farm.

Dorr spent his family fortune in helping set aside lands for the park and died penniless.

Located off Route 3 about a mile from downtown Bar Harbor, the Compass Harbor Trail is less than a mile long.

The trail starts at a small lot with limited parking. The trail begins as a gravel road and then veers left and narrows as it heads to the harbor.

It’s best to bike or walk to the lot, which is located on the left headed out of town. Acadia officials are attempting to encourage walking or biking to trail heads partly because of a lack of parking.

For such a short trail, it offers a lot. On a nice day, visitors can experience tremendous views of Frenchman Bay, the Porcupine Islands, the Schoodic Peninsula and Egg Rock.

We’ve also seen fox and a Pileated Woodpecker off the trail.

A great way to discover Compass Harbor is a 1.5-hour, ranger-led tour at the site called “The Missing Mansion.” Former park volunteer Jim Allen created “The Missing Mansion” tour during a stay at the park in 2010.

Check the park’s monthly schedule of ranger programs.

Dorr’s mansion is all but gone but his legacy may last forever.

10 thoughts on “Compass Harbor Trail leads to missing mansion at Acadia National Park

  1. Ronald H. Epp, Ph.D.

    I viewed the video for the first time and it created a strong longing to return to Oldfarm and its magnificent views of Frenchman Bay, especially this year when we commemorate Eliza Homan’s inaugural gift to the Hancock County Trustees. On a trivial matter, Dorr was 90 (not 89) years of age when he died in August of 1944.

    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Thanks very much for the comment and taking the time to view the video, Ronald. Those are some great views of the Porcupine Islands and Frenchman Bay from Oldfarm. A foggy, light rain at Oldfarm has its own appeal in the early evening we have found during our many visits but we definitely prefer a sunny, blue-sky day for the closeup views of the bay. Thanks for the correction on George Dorr’s age at the time of his death. We will be sure to make that change in the story and note it going forward. Rereading your book, it is amazing that Dorr was, I think, was 60 when he was starting on the major lobbying in Washington to create the park first as a national monument. George Bucknam Dorr, (December 29, 1853-August 5, 1944)

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  8. Jeffrey Wilson

    I hiked the compass harbor trail with my wife. I loved it, but she fought me on going. She felt extremely uncomfortable. She kept saying she heard someone behind us, but there was no one else there. We later learned of the property being haunted. Spooky !!!

    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Jeffrey. You can at least take solace you’re not alone in your ghostly thoughts about Compass Harbor. The 2011 book “Ghosts of Acadia” includes a chapter called “Haunting at Compass Harbor.” However, we’ve attended the ranger-led program called “Missing Mansion” and there was no mention of any ghosts at Compass Harbor.

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