Since the early 1900s, this area along the southern shore of the eastern half of Mount Desert Island, part of the Town of Mount Desert, has become home to the island’s most exclusive summer community. Seal Harbor includes an abbreviated main street with only a few buildings, a public sand beach smaller than the better-known one along the Ocean Drive, and the Stanley Brook entrance to Acadia National Park that links up with the Park Loop Road near Wildwood Stables and the Jordan Pond House.
Richard Billings’s 1995 memoir called The Village and the Hill describes Seal Harbor as it was 75 years ago, when locals called summertime ‘The Show.’ They weren’t called servants, it notes, they were ‘the help’ because they ‘helped’ their wealthy visitors get through the summer season. Children from the village did not mix with children from the hill (Ox Hill, which rises almost 400 feet above the harbor to the east), except sometimes at Seal Harbor beach, especially during 4th of July fireworks celebrations.
The most prominent families in the area, back then and today, are the descendants of John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who came to the area in 1908 (the year his son Nelson was born along the Shore Path in Bar Harbor), preferred this side of the island, where he began buying up land in 1910. (Eventually he would donate over 11,000 acres to Acadia National Park). The Rockefellers owned the most magnificent home in the area, a 100-room estate called The Eyrie (1914-1962).
The finest historic estate remaining in Seal Harbor, Skylands at the top of Ox Hill, was built in 1925 for Henry Ford’s son Edsel. The twelve-bedroom, three-story pink granite home on 63 acres was purchased at the end of the 1990s by style maven Martha Stewart, who along with former Senator George Mitchell and television executive Dick Wolf (the creator of Law and Order) is among today’s best-known summer residents of Seal Harbor.