From the top of Cadillac to the garden-like paths around Sieur de Monts, from the stacks at Jesup Memorial Library to the labs of 2 major research institutions on Mount Desert Island, the presence of George Dorr can be felt.
Not only was Dorr the “father of Acadia,” he had a hand in creating Bar Harbor’s public library, the Wild Gardens of Acadia and surrounding paths, MDI Biological and Jackson laboratories, and Abbe Museum. George Dorr even played a role in renaming some of the 26 peaks of Acadia, among them Green and Robinson to the now-iconic Cadillac and Acadia mountains.
These, and other fascinating aspects of the life and impact of Dorr, can be found in historian Ronald H. Epp’s new Dorr biography, “Creating Acadia National Park,” published by the Friends of Acadia on the occasion of the park’s Centennial.
The more than 2 million visitors a year who come from across the country and around the world to admire the beauty of Acadia National Park have George Dorr, in large part, to thank. Yet Dorr’s story and the role he played in shaping Acadia, conservation, Mount Desert Island and beyond, have been largely untold – until now.
“Dorr was not a major historical figure,” writes Epp in his introduction to the first-ever biography of Dorr. “Nor was he recognized as an administrator jockeying for ever-more important positions of responsibility. Unlike John Muir, his published writings did not transform national policy.”
Yet, Epp writes, “this grand old man of the National Park Service on Mount Desert Island brought about a federal investment in the conservation of nearly half the landmass of the island. The resultant loss of property tax revenue was offset by the ever-growing number of visitors that clearly contributed to village prosperity. At the county level, Dorr extended the scope of Acadia National Park beyond Mount Desert Island, to other shorelines and islands within Hancock County.”
The legacy of the Boston Brahmin and lifelong bachelor, who used his energy, connections and family wealth to create Acadia, lives on not only along the trails he helped build, from Beachcroft Path to Kurt Diederich’s Climb, or atop the coastal peaks and ridgelines he helped preserve.
Dorr’s gift to the generations can also be felt in the region’s cultural and scientific institutions, and even offers a perspective on the current debate over the attempt by Burt’s Bees founder Roxanne Quimby and family, to donate private land for a national monument or park in Maine’s North Woods. Continue reading