Shocking, right? Actually, it’s not that hard to believe that the idea started with a family getaway. Especially considering the aforementioned connection travelers tend to form to this place. This is what happened to Charles Eliot—and his connection to Acadia National Park would become a decidedly historic one.
So, who were the Eliots? They were a well-to-do family who lived in Boston, and traveled year after year to Mount Desert Island. Charles W. Eliot, the patriarch of the family, was the president of Harvard University. His son, also named Charles, developed an extraordinary emotional attachment to the areas around the island, fervently exploring them as a young child and on into his teen years. He obviously wouldn’t be the last kid to fall in love with the place.
Charles’ passion for the outdoors, and most specifically the island, grew. He started the aptly named Champlain Society, in which he and a group of friends interested in hiking Acadia’s trails and traversing the mountains would explore and document their adventures. It’s not surprising that Charles built an affinity for landscape architecture, and after graduating from college, he got to work on numerous landscaping projects.
His visions for molding the landscape while still having respect for conservation were way ahead of their time. He knew that Mount Desert Island was a place that needed to be preserved for years to come.
Tragically, Charles contracted spinal meningitis, leading to his untimely death at just 38 years old.
It seemed his visions would never see the light of day.
But never underestimate the love of a grieving father.