Of the three rocky promontories that dominate the eastern shoreline of Mount Desert Island — Schooner Head, Great Head, and Otter Cliffs — this is the one still in private hands. It is reached by the Schooner Head Road, which splits off Route 3 just south of downtown Bar Harbor.
Legend has it that during the Revolutionary War, a British warship sailing by in thick fog made out the white markings at the base of the headland to be an enemy schooner under full sail. They hailed the “ship,” requesting that it identify itself, and when the rocks failed to reply the sailors fired several cannonballs at them before realizing their mistake. Hence the name.
The most famous, as well as notorious, resident along Schooner Head Road probably has been Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911), owner of the New York World and the namesake for the famous journalism prizes. Pulitzer’s mansion Chatwold, which he bought in 1894, featured Bar Harbor’s first heated swimming pool, as well as a unique, $100,000 “Tower of Silence.” Pulitzer, who suffered from asthma, insomnia, nervous exhaustion, and depression, alternating with bursts of energy and euphoria, intensely disliked noise. He even tried (but failed) to get the federal government to turn off the foghorn at Egg Rock Light, just across the water in Frenchman Bay.
Chatwold was torn down in 1944. Then came the Fire of 1947 , which was traveling at maximum speed and intensity when it passed through here. It burned everything in its path, including the cottages on the head and nearby (except for High Seas). The present homes on the headland are on private land. The house perched dramatically on top of Schooner Head today, on a six-acre property that includes 460 feet of shore frontage, was built in the mid-1980s for an attorney whose firm, with offices in London and Washington, D.C., specializes in international tax law.
Schooner Head area is also the location of the famous Anemone Cave.
In 1888, M.F. Sweetser wrote of Anemone Cave: “Anemone Cave is a picturesque grotto forty feet deep, across the cove south of Schooner Head, full of interesting sea-mosses, sea-lettuce, pale-green sponge, kelp, barnacles, green echini (sea urchins), red-backed crabs, star-fishes, and other wonders of the shore . . . The exquisite sea anemones, once so abundant in its rocky pools, have well-nigh vanished at the hands of visitors; and the owners of the Head now strenuously forbid removal of the treasures of this loveliest of aquaria. (This has not changed: Acadia National Park strongly discourages visitors from entering the cave). A favorite name for Anemone Cave, among the old islanders, was the Devil’s Oven; and the roaring and rushing of the waves in its dark depths, during a stormy high tide, certainly suggests demoniac activities. . .”
In The Last Resorts (1952), Cleveland Amory writes about an aged Civil War cannon placed on Schooner Head to protect Bar Harbor during the Spanish-American War. When the gun was donated to a World War II scrap drive, people realized that, way back in 1898, no ammunition had been sent along with the gun.