HomeThe Charles Eliot Scrapbook Research GuideResearch QuestionsResearch Question 2:

Research Question 2:

What is the Connection Between Acadia National Park, Charles W. Eliot, and George Dorr?

George Dorr was the founder of Acadia National Park, who visited Mount Desert Island in 1868 on a vacation with his parents and decided to make the island his home. The remains of his family residence at Compass Harbor in Bar Harbor are part of Acadia National Park today. He continuously petitioned the Legislature to preserve the area, and acquired land to preserve the park. In 1871, Charles W. Eliot took his family on their first vacation to Mount Desert Island. These trips were intended to help his son Charles experience outdoor life, despite his sickly condition.1 The Eliots continued to vacation on the island until 1878. These trips spurred Charles Eliot to start the Champlain Society, through which he and his friends documented and explored Acadia’s trails and mountains.2 Along with George Dorr, the Champlain Society was among the first to call for the protection of Acadia.3 When Charles Eliot died, his father took up the mantle to bring his son’s vision of preserving Acadia to life.

Charles W. Eliot was the “man who called the first meeting of what would become the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations in 1901.”4 The Hancock County Trustees were created in response to the increase in lumber companies and private ownership in and around Acadia. It is clear from their mission statement that they were heavily based on The Trustees of Public Reservations in Massachusetts.5 They preserved thousands of acres on Mount Desert Island. George Dorr was made executive secretary of the Hancock County Trustees, and was tasked with working with landowners on the island to donate their land. Dorr realized that Acadia needed greater protection from the federal government, so The Trustees donated their holdings to the Federal government in 1916, called Sieur de Monts National Monument, which formed the core of Acadia National Park.6 When the National Park Service was established in 1916, Acadia was designated in 1919 as Lafayette National Park. The scrapbook mentions the work to preserve Mount Desert Island [pg. 12, article 1], as well as the increase in development around Bar Harbor [pg. 16, article 1].

For those interested in learning more about Dorr and the creation of Acadia National Park, we recommend the 2016 publication, Creating Acadia National Park: the Biography of George Bucknam Dorr, by Ronald H. Epp.

Morgan, Keith N., introduction to Charles Eliot, Landscape Architect, au. Charles William Eliot (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press in Association with Library of American Landscape History, 1999), 3.
"Charles W. Eliot, George Dorr and a Son's Legacy." Charles W. Eliot, George Dorr and a Son's Legacy - Acadia - Maine Thing Quarterly. March 01, 2017.
3 Schmitt, Catherine, and Maureen Fournier. "The Champlain Society Transcriptions: Acadia’s Nineteenth-Century Origins." Friends of Acadia Journal, Spring 2015, 12-13.
4 U.S. National Park Service. "George B Dorr: Acadia National Park." National Parks Service. 
5 “Acquire, by devise, gift of purchase, and to own, arrange, hold, maintain or improve lands in Hancock County, Maine, which by reason of scenic beauty, historical interest, sanitary advantage or other like reasons may become available for such purpose....”
"Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations." National Parks Service. 2001.