Friend of Acadia Jim Green bids at the benefit auction to support Acadia National Park.

BAR HARBOR, MAINE - The Annual Benefit Auction of the Friends of Acadia took place at the historic Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor, Maine, on Saturday, August 11. A crowd of 500 celebrated in a huge tent, undeterred by waves of fog, which obscured the view of the Northeast Harbor, nestling snugly at anchor a few yards away. The town was once referred to as “Philadelphia on the Rocks” due to the number of Philadelphia families who vacationed here. A well-organized evening of cocktails, silent and live auctions, dinner and dancing provided a terrific atmosphere and a warm reminder of how important Acadia National Park is to the community of Bar Harbor.

American Indians first occupied this coastal paradise some 6,000 years ago. Samuel de Champlain, the guy with a lake, rediscovered it, landing at what is now Fernald Point on Somes Sound on September 5, 1604, thereby neatly avoiding the “summer people” from Boston and Philadelphia, by one month, and almost 200 years. In the second half of the 19th Century, summer rusticators began to invade, building vast “cottages” and intensely flammable wooden hotels, many of which succumbed to the Great Bar Harbor Fire of 1947.

Bob Bell with Benefit Chair and FOA board member Lili Pew, looking at the antique Ford convertible, one of the lots auctioned off to benefit the Friends of Acadia.

What nevertheless remained was the extraordinary national park, purportedly envisioned by the landscape architect, Charles Eliot, and named the Sieur de Monts National Monument by President Woodrow Wilson on July 8, 1916. The monument became a park – the Lafayette National Park – on February 26, 1919, and finally gained its current nomenclature on January 19, 1929.

Auctioneering to benefit the “Friends of Arcadia.”

From 1915-1933, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. created 50 miles of carriage trails, including 17 graceful granite bridges, which are still occasional hosts to horse-drawn carriages, when not occupied by millions of summer visitors – hikers, bikers, equestrians, canoeists, kayakers, campers and those who enjoy swimming in ice-cold lake water – in this wonderland of mountains, woodlands, lakes, shorelines and islands, all below the commanding summit of Cadillac Mountain. At 1,530 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the Atlantic Coast and sufficiently eastern that you can catch daybreak at the summit before anyone else in the United States, having ascended the convenient road access by automobile – my kind of hiking.

The Friends of Acadia annual benefit raised at least $300,000 (donations are still coming in!) towards the park’s imaginative and, dare we say, groundbreaking, educational programs, as the lobsters disappeared and the multigenerational crowd danced with a frenzy, which might have scared those Wabanaki Indians, six millennia ago.