From Magic City Morning Star

Down the Road
Where'd Green Mountain get its name?
By Milton M. Gross
Dec 11, 2011 - 12:23:05 AM

Good question. I still haven't found out.

But I have found out lots of other information about Green Mountain. Where's Green Mountain, you might ask if you're younger than 120.

I do know that one. It's on Mount Desert Island, second probably only to the ocean as Acadia National Park's major feature. Today it's called Cadillac Mountain.

You remember Cadillac, if you're a typical tourist. That's the final stop on your race around the 25-mile-long Park Loop Road on your way to a lobster dinner at a local restaurant. Let's face it, most tourists only come to Acadia for the lobster dinner and feeling duty-bound drive the Park Loop Road.

Speaking of which, quite a few have asked me over the years, "What's your favorite restaurant to eat lobster?"

Sometimes the wording varies, but it's the same question. Over and over and over.

My answer? "We live here. We don't eat lobster. We eat macaroni and cheese."

That wording may vary too, but it's the same answer.

Here's some real heresy. the answer I'd like to give. "I don't eat lobster. Why would I want to eat something that makes its living by eating garbage off the ocean floor?"

But despite that fascinating bit of trivia you probably don't care to read, this piece is not about lobster.

It's about Green Mountain.

I've known its older name for years, but being an ancient investigative reporter, I asked the Mount Desert Island Historical Society what they knew about it. From the documents Tim Garrity, the executive director of the Historical Society, sent, I've learned that way back in the early 1800s it was called Bauld Mountain, obviously because it hasn't -- nor had then -- trees on top so is bald. (I like our spelling better.)

A bit later it was called Newport, perhaps named after another place of ocean wealth that well-heeled New Yorkers also loved to visit.

But Green Mountain. No one seems to know where that name originated. I have a suspicion it may be similar to the origin of Norumbega Mountain's older name, Brown Mountain.

This is only hearsay, but I understand a guy named Brown owned what Acadia National Park later dubbed Norumbega and the land around it, or at least a good bit of the land on it and around it. So it was known as Brown Mountain.

I am guessing that Green Mountain got its name the same way, some guy named Green owned it and the land around it or a lot of the land on it and around it.

Why the "guy" who likely owned it and not the "gal?" You know as well as do I that it wasn't until a bit later in our history that women became appreciated and not just named as part of some guy's family. It took more modern guys like me to appreciate women, for....well, you know...beginning with Dolores. Oops, my mother was a woman too. I appreciated her.

I just want you to know that I also appreciate women for what they have done and can do. For example, Dr. Molly Collins, a surgeon who removed a melanoma from my back is a woman and a skillful one. Saved my life. A few years later, she removed a harmless skin cancer from one of my ears. Her nurse, also a woman whose name I don't recall, was dedicated and good at her profession. While Dr. Collins was whittling, the nurse attempted to give Dolores and I a stray cat her family had taken in to their home. I always appreciate medical folk, even men, who take your mind off what they're doing to you by such devious means as attempting to give you a cat.

Anyhow, in 1918 the National Park Service renamed the island's highest mountain Cadillac, because "it was more appropriate," according to the pages the MDI Historical Society e-mailed me.

Cadillac Mountain viewed from the southeast in spring when snow still covers the higher elevations. This mountain once carried the name Green Mountain, supplied by no-on-seems-to-know-who and later changed to Cadillac by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Milt Gross photo.

Samuel Eliot Morison, a long-time historian and summer visitor to the island, insisted it was Green Mountain. He wrote in a 1930 essay that it was "absurdly called Cadillac." In 1931, according to the documents e-mailed me, the Bar Harbor Times reported that 98% of some 200 respondents preferred Green Mountain.

But you know the Feds. The then Secretary of the Interior informed Morison that local people were tired of wisecracking tourists asking, "Where are Chevrolet, Ford, and Packard Mountains?"

Hey, how should we know where they are? What's that matter?

The material that arrived on my computer moved on to who first climbed Green Mountain. Pretty obvious, those Native Americans who were living there and eventually eliminated by various and sundry nations -- England and France -- and the wealthy summer folk who eventually took over the island for the fun of it. These wealthy summer folk, "rusticators" by brag of locals who know that handle, climbed it. Of course, the Native Americans wanted to see land features they needed to see, so they climbed it by the easier routes, the north ridge, most likely.

No the North Ridge Trail didn't exist then, nor did the Island Explorer buses that will deposit you and your modern hiking boots and stick at the trailhead to that moderate 2.2 (I believe)-long trail. That's the trail I recommend to most tourists, because it is a lot easier than the steep east and west ascents.

Actually, when tourists ask me which trail is easiest, I generally glance at their feet. If they're wearing sandals, I tell them there are no trails. Go take one of the two tourist buses up Cadillac.

I best remember the North Ridge Trail for a November walk I took up it and came to a very thin layer of ice on a slanted boulder (called slab rock by those insiders who know this stuff). Of course, I didn't notice the ice until I found myself sliding on one of my ends down the boulder. You've heard of glare ice? This was *@#%&@ ice. (The spelling may not be totally correct, but it uses the letters available on my keyboard.)

Sometime in the 1880s, some guys built a cog railway to the top of Green Mountain, which took well-heeled folk up to the Summit House hotel. I forget where I read or dreamed that the railroad builders got the idea from the Mount Washington Cog Railroad, and after the Green Mountain Railroad's demise a couple of its engines were taken to New Hampshire and used on that much higher railroad.

The rails were dismantled and removed. The hotel fell into hard times when an owner became involved in some kind of suspicious financial dealings. Eventually the hotel caught fire, not once but twice, and by 1894 wasn't serving any real purpose, according to the MDI Historical Society documents. It was taken down.

A Romance of Mount Desert, an 1887 novel from which the writer gleaned some information he either didn't know or knew only as rumor. The writer found his copy at the Ellsworth Recycling Center, a gathering place for those who want to dispose of recyclables correctly and/or who like to read. Milt Gross photo.
A novel I found in the recycling center, A Romance of Mount Desert, describes the pleasant excursion from Bar Harbor via out what must have been Eagle Lake Road by buckboard to Eagle Lake, where a boat took the Green Mountain ascenders across the lake to the foot of the railroad. From there, they allowed the steam engines to huff and puff them up the 1,534-foot mountain. The novel, written by A.A. Hayes in 1885, was first published in 1887 by Charles Scribner's Sons and records the life of that day as current, which I found interesting.

The novel was published again in 1985 by Acadia Publishing Company, which is listed in today's yellow pages at 55 Cottage Street, Bar Harbor 04609.

In part of that novel, a group rides a buckboard or other type of wagon* out what appears to have been the Crooked Road and on to Somesville. Their trip back to Bar Harbor was via Eagle Lake Road, now Route 233.**

I also learned from a chance comment in the book that apparently in 1887 the bridge to Trenton, the mainland, was in place, although cars were not on the island.*** I didn't learn from the book where "The Ovens" were located. These are depicted by a painting on the cover. Suzanne Mitchell, a resident of Salisbury Cove using the library, came to the library phone and said The Ovens are in Salisbury Cove. Go there at low tide, because the base of the cliffs floods at high tide, says Mitchell.

If you want to read a copy, go to the Jessup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor and borrow their copy. Or check your recycling center. I phoned Acadia Publishing Company and learned that it has been out of print for "a long time."

A lot of credit here goes to the Mount Desert Island Historical Society via e-mail sent to Tim Garrity and passed along to me containing stuff I had maybe heard or dreamed but the society had in print. (Although I don't see his name attached to any of the material below, somewhere Garrity mentioned Paul Richardson, a historian who I used to know slightly back in the day when I covered "the park" for a local paper.) I've eliminated a couple of e-mail addresses from this material in case they don't want to be blamed and e-mailed for what I write.****

Not all I know about Green Mountain is historical. Once in awhile I take one of our buses up there and have fun coming down again in low gear, explaining to the passengers that they shouldn't worry because the buses go up the mountain just fine.

I also explain to the tourists how each year Green Mountain, aka Cadillac, is getting lower due to all the buses and RVs parking on top. I also am sure to tell them that, although the mountain by whatever name is getting lower, the trails are getting steeper.

I know that from first-foot experience.

* A Romance of Mount Desert states that a buckboard's bottom was flat for its entire length, and at times when it was turned sharply, the front wagon wheels would rub the sides of the buckboard. From my little mind, this probably meant that the scraping wheels shook the buckboard to bring about its name. Other types of wagons had front ends at which the bottom was raised above the level of the front wheels, so the wagon could turn sharply without the front wheels rubbing the wagon.

** Eagle Lake Road has what I believe is the longest, steep section of road on Mount Desert Island. I used to suggest to my bus passenges that if they wanted to speed our ascent up the hill, they could get out of the bus, walk up the hill, and wait for us on top. When I read A Romance of Mount Desert, I was surprised to learn that my suggestion had been the way they actually did it in 1885. In the novel, a group left the buckboard and walked up the long hill to ease the team's toil.

*** If the bridge experience from and to Trenton was at all similar to today's, the bridge was probably closed when the buckboard rolled past due to road construction. While cars weren't on the island end of the bridge, they may have been lined up on the mainland end, as they are today during the usual road construction on the bridge, waiting to be invented. I wonder if when Stanley invented his steamer, he was hurrying the project to be able to rush through Trenton to join the line waiting to cross the bridge. If this paragraph confuses you, it probably means you're not a daily commuter to and from Mount Desert Island on said bridge.

**** Hi Milt -- Here is more information on the green mountain railway, courtesy of Hank Raup. Tim

---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: Henry Raup
Date: Fri, Nov 18, 2011 at 2:56 PM
Subject: Green Mountain Hotels
To: "Garrity, Tim"


A bit more on the Green Mountain hotels that I found hidden in theremote corners of my computer ...


1884. Summit house burned. .. [Mount Desert Herald, 8/8/1884,p.1, c.6]. Visible at Ellsworth, 8/8/1884, p.1, c.3. Rebuilt8/22/1884, p.3.c.1 and 9/12/1884, p.1, c.4.

1885. Reference to: "...the wonderful spring, and the remains ofthe first and second Mountain houses, ..." on the summit of GreenMountain and visit to third summit house. [Mount Desert Herald,10/23/1885, p.1, c.4]

1883, 1885. Apparently Mount Desert Herald, 5/10/1883 and 8/8/1885has articles on Green Mountain hotels. [Richardson, Paul, 1999.Untitled typed manuscript on carriage roads and bridges, Mount DesertIsland. Draft version, November 17, 1999, p.60]

1904. "The Green Mountain House was totally destroyed by fire lastSaturday. The building was erected last year by the Green MountainRailway Company, and was under lease to Horace Chase of Bangor. A new hotel will be commenced at once. The fire caught from sparks from the kitchen chimney." [Bar Harbor Record, 8/3/1904, reprinted in BHT,8/5/2004, p.A4, c.4] [Why Railway involvement after railway out ofbusiness?]

1998. Info on Summit House hotels and Green Mountain Railway.[Erikson, Dorothy Brown, 1998. Descendants of Thomas Brewer,...p.1-51-152]


Tim Garrity
Executive Director
Mount Desert Island Historical Society
PO Box 653
Mount Desert ME 04660

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2011

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