Read Roberta's reflections on the Bar Harbor bed and breakfast experience. The following items are included in the forthcoming collection by Roberta Chester called “Be My Guest: The Inside Story of a B & B in Maine.”
“Writing on the Wall”
“Lost Bar Harbor,” a well-thumbed through book on our living room captain’s chest, documents the homes of the rich and famous when Bar Harbor was their favorite “watering hole” for the almost 100 years before the fire of 1947 Those spectacular homes, many of which were destroyed in the fire, were designed by famous architects. These mansions were so lavish and grand that an entire retinue of servants was required to maintain them, as well as to provide all the services necessary for the high society social life and numerous entertainments during the season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day when the owners left for their winter homes in New York, Philadelphia and Boston. Actually, though, even if there hadn’t been a fire, it is debatable as to how long even their very wealthy owners could maintain these palatial “cottages,” one of which - just as an example - had an enormous stage for a full orchestra extending from the foyer bannister.
Thanks to Raymond Strout, our local picture framer, who has a marvelous memory for numerous anecdotes and keeps a collection of old postcards in his studio, I was delighted to see pictures of our home from way back when and to hear some stories about the Shore Path Cottage as I waited for Raymond to finish wrapping some pictures he had framed.
Raymond told me that the last owner of the famous Hope Diamond was Evalyn Walsh MacLean, after which it was bequeathed to the Smithsonian where it has become the major feature of an impressive gem collection. He relayed a bit of information linking McLean and the Shore Path Cottage. I was vaguely aware of the diamond but Raymond piqued my interest enough for me to research the history of this diamond; the following is an abridged history of this diamond which brought bad luck.
Legend has it that the diamond (now 45.52 carots but originally 112 and 3/16 carots before it was cut down) was originally stolen by Jean Batiste Tavernier who traveled to India in 1642 where he plucked it from the eye of Sita, a Hindu goddess. It was said the diamond, extremely rare for its perfect quality, large size and unusual blue color, would be a curse to not only those who owned it but even those who touched it. Tavernier, subsequently torn apart by wild animals in Russia, sold it in 1668 to Louis X1V, after which it passed to a succession of French kings until it was owned by Louis X1V (He is reputed to have worn it by a long cord around his neck) and Marie Antoinette, both of whom were beheaded during the French Revolution. At some point it was owned by a Russian prince who loaned the diamond to Mme. Leduc, an actress in the Folies Bergere. The prince shot her during her performance and was then himself killed. (Google the Hope Diamond and you will find a fetching photo of Mme. Leduc.)
The diamond was then repeatedly stolen and recovered until it surfaced in 1813 in London. After several owners, it passed to the Hope family (after whom it was named) whose members became bankrupt. In the early 20th century it was sold to Pierre Cartier, the jeweler and financier, who in 1910 sold it to Evalyn Walsh McLean, newly married, who would later have a home on the shore path, in close proximity to the Shore Path Cottage. She resisted his sales pitch but grew attached to the diamond when Cartier convinced her to keep it for a weekend. Subsequently, she suffered several family tragedies, including her husband who was declared insane and was confined to a mental institution. She herself died in 1947 when all her jewels, including the diamond, were sold in payment of her debts.
According to the anecdote Raymond Strout related to me years ago, a doctor who lived in our house and Evalyn Walsh McLean had a relationship, the details of which Raymond did not specify. I listened but forgot about it until years later when we were having some work done in our downstairs bedroom. When the old paneling was removed, I noticed the note left by the carpenter which read “Doctor, where should I put this cabinet?” And then just as I was writing the enclosed, I read that McLean was so attached to the diamond which she regarded as a good luck charm, her doctor had to coax her to remove it, so he could perform goiter surgery. Could this be the doctor who lived at the Shore Path Cottage years before we arrived??
- Roberta Chester, 2014