About the Inn
The History of Asticou Inn
The history of the Asticou-Inn begins with its namesake. Wabanaki Indians guiding French explorer Samuel de Champlain to the first island in 1604 called it Pemetic, meaning “range of mountains'. Because of its high barren peaks, a prominent coastal landmark for seafarers, Champlain named it Isle des Mounts Deserts. He named the other island Ise au Haut because of its height. When Europeans first landed on the shores of Mount Desert Island, the sakom (sagamore of chieftain) of the greater Mount Desert Island area was Asticou.
Asticou is first mentioned in a 1608 English document as headman of an Indian village of what became known as the River of Mount Desert – later segmented and renamed Union River, Union Bay River and Blue Hill Bay. Five years later, his name appears in French records as the sakom who welcomed the French to his summer village on the southeastern shore of Somes Sound.
In 1798, the Savage family settled their homestead on the land at the head of Northeast Harbor. Those first Savage’s were industrious and multi-talented. They were seaman, fisherman, hunters, farmers, housekeepers, and lumbermen.
Three generations later, in 1854 Augustus Chase Savage and Emily Manchester Savage built their home atop a hill overlooking the harbor. This cottage is now known as Cranberry Lodge and is the oldest of the Asticou-Inn buildings in use today. In 1870, the Savages began housing boarders, and so began the tradition of lodging at the Asticou-Inn.
In the 1870’s, now a retired sea captain and entrepreneur, A.C. Savage, foresaw that the rusticator boom, which had built up in Bar Harbor, would soon spill over to neighboring Northeast Harbor. The main inn was constructed and began welcoming its first guests in 1884. The original building burned down in 1900, but it was rebuilt, grander than ever and opened in the summer of 1901. Over the years, it has lodged some of America’s greatest social and political leaders. These high-profile guests would stay for not just several days, or a week, but often for an entire summer. In Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, they would speak of, and look forward to the “season” on Mount Desert Island.
In 1941, when the United States was thrust into World War II, normal operations at the Asticou-Inn were suspended so that all could join the war effort. The Inn was not reopened until 1946. In October of 1947, Mount Desert Island was ravaged by a terrible wildfire. Nearly 17,000 acres on the eastern half of the island were consumed in the blaze. Many of Bar Harbor’s great “cottages” were destroyed, as well as many of the grand hotels and restaurants. The towns of Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor were the only areas spared from this disaster.
During the period of the Asticou-Inn’s history, it was run by Charles and Katharine Savage, the third of his lineage to manage the Inn. In addition to being a dedicated Innkeeper, Charles Savage was a man of many skills and interests. He was a skilled wood carver, and some of his carvings, the “Five Canterbury Pilgrims” can still be seen on the mantel over the fireplace at the Northeast Harbor library. He was also the chief landscape architect of the Azalea Gardens and Thuya Gardens, which can be visited across the street from the Inn.
In the early 1960’s, both the Asticou-Inn and Kimball House, also in Northeast Harbor, were sold to the Asti-Kim Corporation. This group was composed of local businesspeople, and summer residents who wished to see the tradition of the large hotels preserved for the future. As large hotels fell out of favor with the advent of the motel, it seemed only one of the two could survive. The Kimball House was torn down, but the Asticou-Inn has survived to this day, still an integral part of Mount Desert, and the Northeast Harbor community.