It has been quite some time since our last blog entry, in fact, we have only recently re-introduced the “blogs” link to our website! Despite the snow that is quickly piling up outside, we are already thinking about next summer: taking reservations, working on the rooms and assembling our team for the season. It is in this spirit that we want to recall another summer, the summer that Xanthus Smith stayed at the Claremont and made the painting that hangs on the wall in the dining room:
“Those August days must have been golden, for the Xanthus Smith portrait of the Claremont in its second year is one of his finest works. The colors are soft, the mood tranquil, and the hotel itself rises lightly from its hill overlooking the dock with its moored Whitehall skiffs with their classic curves and wine-glass sterns. There is, in the portrait, the essence of the time, a sense of gentle living, soft on the landscape. Although he could not have known it, Xanthus Smith caught and held the Claremont’s fine tranquility- the serenity inherent in its presence and location.”
Excerpt from John Cole’s “Summer Hotel”
Feel free to comment with some of your favorite summer memories at the Claremont!
In 1884, the year the Claremont opened for business, a “gentleman from Maine” was running for President in a campaign notable for mudslinging and attention to personalities and not issues. James G. Blaine, long leader of the Republican Party, was finally nominated to run for President against Democrat, Grover Cleveland. That election took place in a country that, in 1884, was witnessing rapid changes in an era of urbanization. City populations were doubling and many people were abandoning the small farms of New England countryside. It was this rapidly urbanizing America which propelled the first “rusticators” to seek the fresh air, ocean and mountain vistas of Mount Desert Island.
The first summer visit was recorded in 1858 by Robert Carter, the Washington correspondent of the “New York Herald Tribune”. He and his party found lodging at the house of Deacon Clark, an illustrious resident of Southwest Harbor whose home was known as the refuge for early visitors. Deacon Clark has long maintained that, what is now known as Clark Point, later the sight of the Claremont, would be the best place for a steamboat landing: this he built in the early 1850’s. Due to the foresighted construction, Southwest Harbor developed as a retreat for city folk long before Bar Harbor. At this time, local occupations were declining and no new industries had appeared to help solve the problem of making a living. The summer visitors meant opening houses and hotels, employment for carpenters, caretakers, dressmakers and mechanics of every kind. Thus began a mutually beneficial relationship between summer visitors and year round residents that continues to this day.
In 1877, Captain Jesse Pease married Deacon Clark’s niece, Grace. In 1883, Captain Pease retired from the high seas and decided to build a hotel to take advantage of the tourist boom. In 1884, the Claremont opened for business and 146 names were entered on the first summer’s register. Soon after the turn of the century, another illustrious citizen of Southwest Harbor, Dr. Joseph D. Phillips, purchased the hotel and it was owned by Dr. Phillips’ family for the next 60 years. When Dr. Phillips retired in 1932, his son Lawrence, married to the former Maude Gooch of East Machias, became the Manager. Lawrence and Maude Phillips retired in 1968 and the Claremont was sold to Allen and Gertrude McCue of Yarmouth, Maine. Gertrude and Allen’s, her son Bill and his family and their daughter Marian, have sought to continue the traditions established by the Phillips family. Cottages have been added, a new dining room was built in 1978 and an extensive renovation of the main hotel building was completed over the winter of 1994. Since 1977, the Claremont has held an important tournament of nine-wicket croquet. The Claremont begins its 151st season, hoping to continue the tradition of “plain living and high thinking”.
A complete history of the Claremont titled “Summer Hotel,” written by author John Cole, is available for sale at the Claremont.