Bar Harbor gets its name from the sand and gravel bar that blocks the western end of the harbor when it’s exposed for a few hours on either side of low tide. The bar, extending north from Bridge Street, makes a natural bridge out to a tidal island that in previous centuries has been called Bar Porcupine, and Rodick’s Island (after the family that owned it from the late 1700s to the early 1900s).
Curiously, despite being attached to Bar Harbor, Bar Island since the 1790s has been part of the town of Gouldsboro on the other side of Frenchman Bay.
This split between the island’s physical connection to one town, and legislative connection to another, most likely is the reason no man-made bridge has ever been built across to Bar Island. The most serious attempt to do so occurred in 1909, when such a motion was passed at the town meeting but then opposed by an influential group of summer residents.
Ultimately, the banker Edward Stotesbury put an end to any discussion by simply buying all the land at the western end of the island, where the bar connects, keeping it undeveloped. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. later acquired the Stotesbury parcel and donated it to Acadia National Park, which today protects Bar Island.