The Coast Walk Project

Coast Walk 15: Seal Harbor to Bracy Cove

Seal Harbor Beach, Maine, sunrise

October 20, 2016: 6:30am-12pm. Started just about sunrise, 46ºF (8ºC), slight breeze from shore, a few clouds. Warmed up a bit as the sun rose and turned into a gorgeous autumn day. Black Backed Gull, 4 Loon, 5 Great Cormorants (they might have been Double-Crested Cormorants) 2 crows, and an unidentified dead fish.

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Please note that the whole Point is private property. And many, many thanks to Sue Ferrante-Collier and to Steve Pinkham for their assistance in contacting people for permission to cross these properties!

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Walker: Kenn Chandler, builder. I met Kenn through the MDI Photo Club, where he is the outings coordinator. He was one of the first people outside of my family to discover the Coast Walk, and when you’ve just started an insanely complex and time-consuming project, having a stranger come up to you and say, “Are you the one doing the Coast Walk? I love it!” makes you feel like a rock star. Kenn has a very special place in my heart!

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We met at the Seal Harbor beach just as the sun was rising, and headed out toward the western point. The tiny island in the center of the photo above is called Little Thrumbcap, and I’ve wanted to explore it ever since I first saw it. (‘What’s a Thrumcap?‘)

web-_dsc6582-editKenn moved to the island in 1971: “My Grandma, Winifred Dole Mann, had a summer place in Southwest Harbor.  My family always came up for visits in the summer and loved it.  Her driving skills had deteriorated pretty badly and she was pleaded with to stop driving.  When she was 90 she threw her drivers license in the fire on Christmas of 1971  and whined that she was giving up her freedom.  She wanted someone to help her in her retirement to Maine.  Both my sister Janet and I volunteered and it wasn’t long before my love affair with Maine and the island were established.”

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“When we came to Southwest Harbor to visit my Grandma, we were on vacation for the most part.  We used to fish a lot in Norwood Cove from the old wooden punt, sometimes to eat and sometimes for fun.  A couple times my sister and I were instructed to catch enough flounder for the family for dinner.  It was easy fishing.  We would pick a few mussels and put them on hooks with sinkers, let them down to the bottom (4-6 ft deep) and reel them in as fast as we could.  Everyone was quite pleased.  That is, until I read your Coast Walk 3 about the overboard discharge.  It makes sense though, bottom feeders, but who wants to look a gift horse (or fish) in the mouth?”

 

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Kenn and I had a conflict of opinion on the Point’s name – I had always called it Dodge Point (because of Dodge Point Road) but he knows it as Crowninshield Point. I poked around and found that the Dodges had a house there in the 1860s, and Commander Crowninshield built a house out at the very tip in 1885.

George N. Colby, 1887

George N. Colby, 1887

Maps show both names, but as you can see on the map at the beginning of this post, Google calls it Crowninshield, so I guess Kenn won that round.

Edward L. Rand, 1893

Edward L. Rand, 1893

Bates, 1917

Waldron Bates, 1917

We couldn’t see it from the shore, but I knew we were passing pretty close to St Jude’s Episcopal church. Built in 1887, it was the first church in Seal Harbor. It’s part of the Parish of St. Mary and St. Jude, which is based in Northeast Harbor, and still holds services in July and August.

Photo from Vandenbergh and Shettleworth, Revisiting Seal Harbor.

St. Jude’s.  Photo from Vandenbergh and Shettleworth, Revisiting Seal Harbor.

Another landmark that’s just out of sight from the shore is the congregational church, which was built in 1902.

Bechtle, Isabel K., A Church for Seal Harbor, Northeast Reprographics, Bangor, ME, 2002

photo from Bechtel, A Church for Seal Harbor

Putting together what I’ve read in the history of both churches (see Works Cited), it sounds like up to that point, Seal Harbor was geographically isolated from the other towns on MDI and more closely related to the Cranberry Islands (it’s a straight shot across the water to Islesford.) While Northeast Harbor residents could row across the Sound to Southwest for Sunday services, Seal Harbor people don’t seem to have gone to church regularly. In 1887, when St. Jude’s was built, 100 out of 118 residents were unbaptized. (Hansen, p.24) The increasing summer population seems to have reached a tipping point in the 1880s, and a church became a necessary amenity.

Photo courtesy of the Seal Harbor Library

(Undated photo of Crowninshield Point.) Photo courtesy of the Seal Harbor Library

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Our progress was very slow at first, not just because of the thick seaweed but because we are both photographers and walking into the rising sun made for some glorious back light:_dsc6638-web

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We ran across a stash of the scat that’s been puzzling me – I think it’s either otter or raccoon – this time with lots of berries in it as well as crab shells. (I have other photos with more crab shells but this post is already wicked long!)

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We watched a Great Blue Heron catch a crab:

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and tear it apart:

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We also spotted several sand dollars trying to dig themselves into the sand:

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In spite of all the distractions, we eventually reached the tip of the point, and Thrumbcap Island:

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The geology out on the point was remarkable – we were clearly back in the Shatter Zone:

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As we worked our way around the outer edge of the point, we crossed a beautiful little cobble beach:

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And then we finally rounded the point and looked into Bracy Cove:

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There’s enough history here that Bracy Cove is going to get its own post – there’s no trace of it now, but this was a town before Seal Harbor was! Tune in next time for that post…

Meanwhile, more cool geology:

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Halfway along the point, we reached the Harbor Club:

Photo courtesy of the Seal Harbor Library

The Harbor Club. Photo courtesy of the Seal Harbor Library

The main building was designed by Duncan Candler, who also did Skylands and the boathouse on Little Long Pond.

Seal Harbor Club ca. 1926. Photo from Vandenbergh and Shettleworth, Revisiting Seal Harbor.

The Harbor Club in 1927. Photo from Vandenbergh and Shettleworth, Revisiting Seal Harbor.

The club opened in 1926 with a swimming pool (which soon became a heated pool) and tennis courts. Rental cottages were added in 1956 (tenants had to be approved by the club board).

Image from Heckscher, The Harbor Club, 1995.

Image from Heckscher, The Harbor Club, 1995.

There’s a surprisingly awesome book about the club at the Seal Harbor Library – much more readable and entertaining than the church histories! I kind of wanted to quote long passages from it here but I’ll have to give you just a small taste:

Image from Heckscher, The Harbor Club, 1995.

Image from Heckscher, The Harbor Club, 1995.

Image from Heckscher, The Harbor Club, 1995.

Image from Heckscher, The Harbor Club, 1995.

Image from Heckscher, The Harbor Club, 1995.

Image from Heckscher, The Harbor Club, 1995.

Lately I seem to be digressing more than usual in my research, or maybe I’m just sharing more of those digressions with you. Here’s a classic: while writing the bibliography for this post I accidentally googled the name of the Harbor Club history’s author, August Heckscher, and discovered that he was a journalist, arts administrator, sailor, and remarkably, a master printmaker whose atelier, The Printing Office at High Loft (run from his summer home in Seal Harbor) produced enough artist books to have its own archive at the New York Public Library.  You can read more about him in this Chebacco article.

from Carl Little, "August Hecksher, A Man About the World - and Mount Desert Island,"

from Carl Little, “August Hecksher, A Man About the World – and Mount Desert Island,”

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A vivid patch of red maple, sumac, and wild roses gave us a last flurry of fall color photos:

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And six hours after we started, we were shuffling wearily up the stones of Bracy Cove to our car.

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Kenn: “I distinctly remember pulling on to the seawall at Bracy Cove and parking to watch the waves and listen to the popples roll around in storms.  I first did this with my Grandma in her 1968 Ford Custom so that would have been in the early to mid 70’s.  I also remember cruising by in my GMC pickup and seeing over the top of the seawall all the way along.  We had a huge winter storm sometime around 1980 that covered the road in stones and left a seawall maybe 8 feet high all across the beach.  The state came out with snowplows to push the rocks off the road.  There was no parking anywhere on the water side of the road there for many years after that.”

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WORKS CITED

Bechtle, Isabel K., A Church for Seal Harbor, Northeast Reprographics, Bangor, ME, 2002.

Colby & Stuart, hand-drawn “Map of Mount Desert Island,” 1887.  Original in the Northeast Harbor Library Archives.

Hansen, Gunnar, Not a Common House: A History of St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea, privately printed, 1981. (pdf available for download at the link)

Heckscher, August, The Harbor Club, A History, Augusta, ME, J.S.McCarthy Co., 1995.

Little, Carl, “August Heckscher, A Man About the World – and Mount Desert Island,” Chebacco: The Magazine of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society,
Vol. VIII, 2006-2007. (pdf available for download at link)

Stebbins, George, “Random notes on the early history and development as a summer resort of Mount Desert Island and particularly Seal Harbor,”(typescript of a speech), August 1938. [MSS in Northeast Harbor Library Archives.]

Vandenbergh, Lydia and Shettleworth, Jr., Earle, Revisiting Seal Harbor and Acadia National Park, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC, 1997.

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3 thoughts on “Coast Walk 15: Seal Harbor to Bracy Cove

  1. Ed Batal

    What a lovely visual presentation of the trail with splendid composition to boot! I enjoyed this area during visits in Northeast Harbor. It merits appreciation, respect and continuing diligence in defense of its preservation.

    Thanks, Jenn, for your genuine commitment to this very special place. And to this fine fellow, Kenn, too!

    Ed

    1. Jenn Post author

      Hi Ed,
      Thanks so much, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! (Just to clarify, though, the route we traveled isn’t a public trail.) Kenn was a great companion!
      Jenn

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