It’s what George B. Dorr, one of the founding fathers of Acadia National Park, had when he build the octagonal, domed-roofed structure that shades and shields the cool waters of Sieur de Monts Spring.
Standing in the shadow of Dorr Mountain, named after Dorr who served as the first park superintendent, Sieur de Monts Spring lies in a low wetland between the Great Meadow and the Tarn. Dorr carved the words “Sweet Waters of Acadia” on a boulder that points the way to the natural spring, widely regarded as the heart of Acadia.
In Dorr’s time (1855-1944), in the early 1900s, picnic tables and benches graced the verdant area. Concerts were held there. Dorr opened the area enabling visitors and local residents to hike and bike there.
Dorr named Sieur de Monts Spring after the French nobleman and Lieutenant Governor Pierre Dugua Sieur de Monts who was charged by King Henry IV in 1603 to establish France’s control of a vast breadth of land called “Acadia.”
New France from Philadelphia to Cape Breton.
Once the central focal place for visitors to gather, Sieur de Monts serves as a reminder of where it all began.
In the late 19th century, wealthy people came to Mount Desert Island for their summers to hike the mountains and see the views that the landscape afforded. The island served as an oasis from the summer heat. Some who came even sought to copy the European gardens.
Sieurs de Mont, which was one of the first pieces of property acquired by Dorr in 1909, had been targeted for development by a spring water bottling company.
“He [Dorr] raced to buy the land before the developer could get there,” Rebecca Cole-Will, cultural resources program manager for Acadia National Park, explained.
Over time, the natural beauty of the spring and its reflecting pool became hidden by overgrown and invasive plants, such as Japanese barberry. Rocks surrounding the pool had slid into the muck, making the edges irregular and misshapen.
The water flowing from the springhouse no longer bubbled the way it was supposed to. A third walkway had been added to the area that wasn’t in the original design, causing gravel to wash into the pool. Sightings of brook trout, once common in the spring, had become scarce.
With the celebration of Acadia’s centennial in 2016 on the horizon, the rehabilitation of the pool is now complete — with the exception of some native flora to be planted.
“We embarked on a plan to rehabilitate, recognizing that it was in alignment with Acadia coming up on its 100th birthday,” Cole-Will said.
Trail foreman Gary Stellpflug and his team treated the restoration of the pool like a jigsaw puzzle, carefully removing the rocks and realigning them like puzzle pieces to better reflect the original spring shown in a historic photo.
“We didn’t reconstruct the original, we rehabilitated it,” Stellpflug said. “We captured the feeling and made repairs as needed…We wanted to capture the design of the original spring.”
The area surrounding the spring is a popular bird-watching spot among visitors. Species such as palm warblers, the northern waterthrush and the yellow-bellied flycatcher can be seen.
Hiking trails including the Jesup, Emery and Homans paths converge at the spring and offer visitors a means of seeing Acadia’s interior including the adjacent Wild Gardens of Acadia.
Like Monte Hadden and Susan Burke of Ocala, Fla. The recently reunited high school sweethearts strolled through the Wild Gardens of Acadia where they saw a wealth of plants representing 13 different habitats found in the park.
Both had visited the park previously, but it was their first time seeing it in the spring. They also got to see Sieur de Monts Spring as it was originally intended by Dorr.
“The spring is an iconic location at Sieur de Monts, integral to the historic cultural landscape and a fitting tribute to George Dorr’s vision for Acadia,” Cole-Will said. “Hopefully, when visitors view the pool, they will be able to understand and appreciate its historic significance.”