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A Dream Come True

September 19, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Acadia National Park

I’ve admitted my affection for the New York Times’ weekly “Vows” feature in its Sunday Styles section. How can one not love each of the short tales of true romance? I prefer the ones about ordinary people to the ones about sons and daughters of the rich and famous. And I don’t enjoy reading happily about two commoners, only to discover halfway through that one is the grandson of a prominent Wall Street banker or granddaughter of a Hollywood power broker, with assorted famous colleagues in attendance at the wedding. Commoner or aristrocrat, though, the bride and groom’s tale is always told with such style, a style so memorably parodied in the mock Vows column of Claire Messud’s novel The Emperor’s Children.

Yesterday, I was going through the NYT Weddings/Celebrations section online to make sure I hadn’t missed any of the columns (or the equally wonderful weekly videos) while we were away, only to stumble inadvertently on today’s tale. I prefer not to read Vows online, waiting to open the Sunday paper. But when I saw the name “Rockefeller”, I couldn’t resist. I just had to know what Rockefeller it was. (No problem this time, of course, deciding if the bride was a commoner, or getting tricked when I thought she wasn’t. If Ariana Rockefeller is getting married on Mount Desert Island in Maine, you know she’s a real Rockefeller.)

Ariana, as it turns out, is David Rockefeller’s granddaughter, John’s great-great-granddaughter. She grew up spending summers on Mount Desert Island.* I don’t want to spoil your own enjoyment of today’s Vows installment, so I won’t say much more. Suffice to say, it’s not easy when a local boy falls in love with a Rockefeller.

Two more points. I couldn’t stop myself from breaking out in laughter when I read this line: “Days of swimming in the ocean followed nights of stargazing in each other’s arms.” I mean, really. And check out the accompanying slideshow. Are those Nantucket reds Ariana’s father is wearing as he escorts her at the wedding? I need them for sure. (See my recent comments on Nantucket red here and here. I bought the shorts, but not the trousers. Or the yarmulke.)

*In case you don’t know, the island was home to many of the wealthy a century plus ago. The website of Acadia National Park tells the story well.

For a select handful of Americans, the 1880s and the “Gay Nineties” meant affluence on a scale without precedent. Mount Desert, still remote from the cities of the East, became a retreat for prominent people of the times. The Rockefellers, Morgans, Fords, Vanderbilts, Carnegies, and Astors, chose to spend their summers here. Not content with the simple lodgings then available, these families transformed the landscape of Mount Desert Island with elegant estates, euphemistically called “cottages.” Luxury, refinement, and ostentatious gatherings replaced buckboard rides, picnics, and day-long hikes of an earlier era. For over 40 years, the wealthy held sway at Mount Desert, but the Great Depression and World War II marked the end of such extravagance. The final blow came in 1947 when a fire of monumental proportions consumed many of the great estates.

Though the affluent of the turn of the century came here to frolic, they had much to do with preserving the landscape that we know today. It was from this social strata that George B. Dorr, a tireless spokesman for conservation, devoted 43 years of his life, energy, and family fortune to preserving the Acadian landscape. In 1901, disturbed by the growing development of the Bar Harbor area and the dangers he foresaw in the newly invented gasoline powered portable sawmill, George Dorr and others established the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations. The corporation, whose sole purpose was to preserve land for the perpetual use of the public, acquired 6,000 acres by 1913. Dorr offered the land to the federal government, and in 1916, President Wilson announced the creation of Sieur de Monts National Monument. Dorr continued to acquire property and renewed his efforts to obtain full national park status for his beloved preserve. In 1919, President Wilson signed the act establishing Lafayette National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi. Dorr, whose labors constituted “the greatest of one-man shows in the history of land conservation,” became the first park superintendent.

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