Yes, folks, it looks like the weather may finally be starting to turn. Today’s temperature may reach almost 50 degrees; it’s hard to imagine that just last week we were on the cusp of yet another storm, with a few inches of snow falling. The week before, we were under a blizzard warning, and the storm didn’t disappoint. High winds and snow/ice caused some damage to some of the trees that line the drive, as well as the large tree near the tennis court and parking area. Around 6 PM that night, large parts of three of these trees fell onto the road. Thankfully, however, Alan and Jay Madeira were on the scene with a chainsaw, and quickly cleared the debris from the road a few hours later. The swiftness of this response merits noting, and we would like to take this opportunity to give a special thanks to the Madeiras, (Jay, Al and Janet), who have worked tirelessly for many years to keep the Claremont in good repair and deal with these small crises as they arise. Winter has kept a long grip on Maine this year; it seems like it started early in December and we were still seeing snow fly on March 31! Nevertheless, the birds are beginning to return and we are looking forward to spending more time getting everything ready for our summer guests!
Work on the Boathouse continues; it seems like we are receiving materials daily to be brought down for the contractors. We are also doing some work in the living room in the hotel, the ceiling is getting some much needed attention, and the ladies room got a fresh coat of paint as well! Check our facebook page for photos, we will be updating them regularly!
For those that don’t know, we are doing some major renovations at one of the Claremont’s most popular spots, the Boathouse! The building has been entirely emptied, and is actually going to be lifted from the ground and moved back on the lawn while some foundation work is done. While it is on the lawn, we will be making some significant changes, including a (small) increase in size. Updates will be coming, and we’ll be posting pictures on the Claremont’s facebook page. We plan to have these renovations completed in time to open at our normal time at the beginning of July.
This is not the only work being done during the offseason, however. We are working on W1 to bring it in line with the renovations done on the kitchens in W2 and W3, along with some work on the side porches in those units. Several of the rooms upstairs have gotten fresh coats of paint, and we are also working on the public restrooms in the hotel. As ever, we endeavor to maintain the historic character of the Claremont while at the same time improving our facilities to bring the best experience possible to our guests. We look forward to your responses and feedback about these projects as they continue!
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.