The VIA board is elected during our Annual Meeting, which convenes at the Historical Society on the third Thursday of August. Our current Board includes:
President: Dick Cough
Vice President: Andy Shea
Treasurer: Jon Nicholson
Secretary: Kathy MacLeod
Directors: Les Brewer, Phil Cunningham, Jeff Dobbs, Tom Testa, Ericka Duym, Paul Coston
Lifetime Members: Mrs. Grace Arnold, Mrs. Catherine Barrett, Mr. Ron Bilancia, Mr. Louis Blancato, Mrs. Charlotte Bordeaux, Mr. Leslie Brewer, Mrs. Barbara Cole, Mr. Richard Cough, Mr. Lorenzo Creamer, Jr., Mr. Philip Cunningham, Mr. Lawrence Duffy, Miss Deborah Dyer, Miss Barbara Entzminger, Mrs. John Hoche, Mrs. Susan Leiter, Ms. Kathryn MacLeod, Mr. George Merrill, Mr. David Paine, Mrs. Ann Roberts, Mr. William Scott, Curtis and Laurel Simard, Will and Genie Thorndike, Mr. and Mrs. Scott West
The VIA would like to acknowledge Les Brewer, who acted as President for over 35 years. Under his quiet and confident direction, the VIA continued to grow, thrive and provide competent stewardship for our properties. He continues to be a valuable resource to us.
We would also like to recognize our contractors and volunteers who have been very generous with their time, advise, labor and materials. They are: Paul MacQuinn of Harold MacQuinn, Tom Savage of Savage Forest Enterprise, Jeff Gammelin of Freshwater Stone and Brick Work, Alexander Phillips the Clockmaker, Jeff Dobbs and Bing Miller of Dobbs Productions, Attorney Nat Fenton, George Merrill, The Bar Harbor Public Works Department and Bill McArtor . . . a big thank you to you all for your continued services.
All visitors to Bar Harbor, as well as residents, are cordially invited to join the Association. Become a member with an annual contribution of $20, or become a lifetime member for $500 Join today!
Who We Were
Historically, VIA membership read like a Who’s Who in America, a venerable mixture of local and summer residents. Prominent members included the likes of John S. Kennedy, Mrs Joseph Pulitzer, Mrs. J.P. Morgan, Mrs. George Vanderbilt, Ernesto Fabbri, Dr. Augustus Thorndike, Alfred Dupont and Dr. Robert Abbe (Ezra Cough, great grandfather of Dick Cough, the sitting president, was also a past member of the BHVIA).
Waldron Bates, George Dorr and Beatrix Ferrand were among the most distinguished of our early members. These farsighted individuals were instrumental in designing Bar Harbor’s downtown, parks and gardens, as well as Kebo Valley Golf Course and the boundaries and trails of Acadia National Park. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to these tireless and giving individuals; their vision created the town and park that we know and love today!
Waldron Bates (1856-1909) joined the BHVIA in 1892. He was chairman of the Paths Committee from 1900 to 1909 and President from 1904 to 1905. Mr. Bates was renowned for designing and constructing trails that would hold up under any conditions and heavy usage, including Cadillac Cliffs, Canon Brook and Giant Slide. Over 25 miles of trails in Acadia can be credited to the Bar Harbor VIA and Mr Bates. Much of this work was overseen and accomplished by the keen eyes and skillful hands of local resident Andrew Liscomb, who headed up the path building for over 20 years. Tragically, Mr. Bates was killed by a moving train in 1909 at the age of 52. His signature trailmarker, known as a Bates cairn, is still used throughout Acadia and plaques honoring his contributions are located on the Gorham Mountain Trail and in the Kebo Valley parking lot.
George Dorr (1854-1944) first visited Bar Harbor in 1868. He dedicated his life and personal fortune to the preservation of Mount Desert Island, eventually acquiring the land, funds, and federal support to successfully establish Acadia National Park. Dorr acted as the first superintendent, and is remembered today as one of the Park’s founding fathers.
Beatrix Ferrand (1872–1959) was one of America’s most celebrated landscape architects renowned for private gardens, many of which were located in Maine, as well as consulting work for some of the country’s most prestigious universities and colleges. Over the course of her long and distinguished career, she received more than 200 commissions, mostly from East Coast society families.
One cannot underestimate the influence of these early VIA contributors and other statesmen, who shaped not only our community and National Park, but also our nation:
One day in 1889 a prominent Virginian, John Wise, burst into the office of the Speaker of the House, Thomas B. Reed of Maine, yelling out, “Who’s running this government anyway?” Reed calmly replied, “Why John, the great and the good are running it of course.” “Well then,” said Wise, “the great and the good must all live in Maine. Here I come to Washington to do business with the Secretary of State, and I find he is Jim Blaine of Maine. I call to pay my respects on the President pro tem of the Senate, and he is Mr. Frye of Maine. I want to consult the Senate’s majority leader and they send me to Mr. Hale of Maine. Then I must take up a tariff matter with the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the House, and who is he but Mr. Dingley of Maine. Then there is a naval bill I am interested in, and who chairs that committee but Mr. Milliken of Maine. I have to see about an appropriation for a public building in Richmond, and who’s in control but Mr. Boutelle of Maine.”“Yes, John,” said Reed, “the great and the good and the wise. The country is still safe,” And out they went arm in arm to have lunch with the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Fuller of Maine.Originally broadcast in 1971 by Ernest Marriner on the 1000th episode of his radio show, Little Talks, in Waterville, Me. The full audio version is available here.
The Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association has certainly had an immediate and lasting impact on the community and it’s residents. This is not only from a health, welfare and beautification perspective but even more importantly from an economic and operational standpoint. The early charter and accomplishments of the BHVIA greatly influenced the direction and organization of the town once it assumed many of the public works duties that the VIA initiated. It set a high standard and created jobs caring for the town and building trails. It should be noted that many of the members of the VIA were year round residents and they played a major role in shaping policies, implementing them and providing skilled local labor to perform the work.
In many ways, the BHVIA was the seed from which Acadia National Park sprouted. Once the BHVIA was formed in 1881, ( it was the first of it’s kind in the state) Village Improvement Societies were formed island wide. Two key figures from the local VIA’s, Charles Elliot and George B. Dorr, next created the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations as a land holding agency in 1901. In 1916, due to their tireless efforts, these lands were transferred to the federal government when Sieur De Mont National Monument was established and in 1919 became the first National Park east of the Mississippi known as Lafayette National Park. The name was changed to Acadia in 1929.