In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Islesboro--An Island in Penobscot Bay

Summer Resorts

Text by Donna Seymour

Seaside House Key Tag, Islesboro, ca. 1900
Seaside House Key Tag, Islesboro, ca. 1900

Item Contributed by
Islesboro Historical Society
Seaside Hotel, Islesboro, ca. 1900
Seaside Hotel, Islesboro, ca. 1900

Item Contributed by
Islesboro Historical Society

RYDER'S COVE
Ryder’s Cove, originally known as Sabbathday Harbor, is reached from Ryder’s Cove Lane. It attracted its first summer population in 1868 when the steam boats made regular trips between Bangor and Ryder Landing. The summer tourists stayed in a boarding house/inn, named at various times Seaside House, Seaside Hotel, The Islesborough and Johnson-by-the-Sea. Soon individuals bought their own property, built family cottages and “camps,” and the Ryder’s cove summer community began, with people travelling from as far away as Florida to spend their summers on Islesboro.

Since Ryder’s Cove was a year-round community as well, the existing stores, post office, and hotel at first provided the necessary staples and entertainment for the summer people. By the mid-twentieth century, the Ryder’s Cove business establishments no longer functioned, and summer residents began to shop at the Durkee, Williams Brothers, and Pendleton & Coffin stores. Worship services were offered at the Second Baptist Church and the Free Will Baptist Church. Public recreation took place at the Drift Inn, a grill restaurant that hosted square dances on Wednesday nights, regular dances on Saturday nights.

Bay View Hotel, Islesboro, ca. 1890
Bay View Hotel, Islesboro, ca. 1890

Item Contributed by
Islesboro Historical Society

HEWES POINT
Hewes Point, south of Ryder’s Cove, facing Bounty Cove and the present Northeast Point, welcomed its first summer visitors when its landing was built shortly after the Ryder Landing. Hewes Point guests came by steamboat from Belfast, and stayed at the Bay View House.

Bay View House Booklet, Islesboro, ca. 1920
Bay View House Booklet, Islesboro, ca. 1920

Item Contributed by
Islesboro Historical Society

As was true at Ryder’s Cove, there were year-round residents at Hewes Point, who ran their own businesses, including shoe and harness repair. Summer residents began to buy their own property and built family homes, establishing a second summer community for the island.

Unlike Ryder’s Cove, which was more isolated on the Northeastern shore, the Hewes Point landing was near the Main Road and the former community of Guinea. Hewes Point residents, summer and year-round, had easy access to island business, social and worship activities in the central and southern parts of the island.

The Islesboro Inn, ca. 1913
The Islesboro Inn, ca. 1913

Item Contributed by
Islesboro Historical Society

DARK HARBOR
In 1888, the Islesboro Land and Improvement Company was formed to sell plots for development by wealthy families from Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Designed by well-known architects, on often vast acreages, these summer "cottages" were built to provide generous seasonal experiences for their families and friends from ”away.” The Company built the Islesboro Inn in 1889 for prospective clients to reside while they decided on whether to buy property in Dark Harbor. In 1891, the newly constructed Dark Harbor landing was host to regular steam boat trips from Rockland, and thus began the third summer community on Islesboro.

Islesboro Inn Commemorative Plate, ca. 1900
Islesboro Inn Commemorative Plate, ca. 1900

Item Contributed by
Islesboro Historical Society

Similar to the summer residents of Ryder’s Cove and Hewes Point, the Dark Harbor summer people valued a more natural, rugged summer experience, including walking on the stone beaches, family bon fire parties, and indoor card and board games, especially Bridge, Canasta and jig saw puzzles. St. Mary of the Isles and Christ Church provided places of worship for this summer community. The Dark Harbor summer residents enjoyed the pleasures of the Tarratine Club, offering golf in the 1890s, yachting in the 1920s and tennis in the 1940s.

First Tarratine Golf Club, Islesboro, ca. 1912
First Tarratine Golf Club, Islesboro, ca. 1912

Item Contributed by
Islesboro Historical Society

For more than a century, as the summer communities developed and expanded, they incorporated new generations of the founding families as well as new summer residents who came first as renters, and then bought or built their own seasonal homes. As the available properties became scarcer, especially at Ryder’s Cove and Hewes Point, descendants of these original summer enclaves, found locations at other places on the island. This outward migration, in addition to the centralization of activities at Historical Society, Islesboro Central School, Alice L. Pendleton Library and now the two markets, Durkees and Island Market, has opened the summer community experience into a more universal one.

Today the senior generation of summer people can be found mixing and mingling socially with their counterparts from the three communities, volunteering together for the Library, Historical Society, Church, and School functions and fundraisers. In addition, year-round organizations including Islesboro Island Trust, Boardman Cottage, Islesboro Sporting Club, the newly renovated Islesboro Community Center, and the town itself offer programs benefitting summer residents and visitors.

As each generation of summer people comes of age, some traditions continue and some become memories: Peg’s Gift Shop, Blue Heron Restaurant, The Pub, Big Tree Boating, The Dark Harbor Shop Ice Cream Race, July 4th Parade and Chicken Barbeque, Sunset Services at the Ferry Landing, Dances, The Quicksilver, etc.

Dark Harbor Pool, Islesboro, ca. 1940
Dark Harbor Pool, Islesboro, ca. 1940

Item Contributed by
Islesboro Historical Society

Fortunately, for all of us, the special essence of Islesboro that brought the founders to settle here, while also intriguing our forefathers to “summer” here, remains. The isolated and precious natural beauty, coupled with its rugged energy, provides for us all a quality of life that beckons us to be at once together and alone. Whether travelling by foot, bike, boat or car to a function or a solitary beach, the gift of being on the island in the summer is as precious as the piece of sea glass or the lucky stone that stays in our pocket on that final ferry ride to the mainland at summer’s end.