Mr. Rockefeller's Roads
The photos on this page were taken on Mount Desert Island, Maine, home to Acadia
National Park.  The park was established in 1919 -- the first U.S. national park east
of the Mississippi River.  About two million people a year visit the park.
Philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who owned a summer home on the island,
was instrumental in most phases of the park's design.  From 1910 until his death in 1960,
Mr. Rockefeller remained dedicated to the goal of conserving the natural beauty of the
area, while making it accessible for people to enjoy.  The 57 miles of unique "carriage
roads" - Mr. Rockefeller's design and gift - still add to the island's charm today.
I wasn't familiar with the carriage roads until last week when my son and daughter-in-law
included a book among my birthday gifts titled "Mr. Rockefeller's Roads" by Ann Rockefeller
Roberts.  The book is a tribute to Mr. Rockefeller's long association with the park - to his
philanthropy and his engineering skills.  The book's photos of the roads and beautiful
granite bridges that he designed sent me to the internet to see more images of the park.
Many thanks to Jim and Pam for the inspiration for this week's Journal page.   Nancy
Mr. Rockefeller would be pleased to know that horses still travel his carriage roads,
carrying visitors back in time to his era and his dream.  From "A Brief History of
the Carriage Roads in Acadia National Park" by Ed Winterberg:
"For half a century, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. pursued his dream to create and preserve a world
class setting for a horse and carriage experience.  Rockefeller knew that after his generation,
the automobile would overwhelm even America's national parks.  So he created an elaborate
57-mile system of auto-free roads on the island's most scenic land.  Altogether, the
construction took 27 years.  He remained responsible for the maintenance of the roads and
bridges he designed, employing his own workers to keep the roads meticulously groomed.
"Vision was not enough, wealth alone was insufficient.  Concept of the plan as a whole,
arduous detail to attention, a passion for perfection, a feeling for beauty, patience,
tolerance of criticism - all these qualities were essential to the fulfillment of the vision."
The carriage roads of Acadia Park are the best example of the turn-of-the-century
"broken stone" roads in America today.
In wilderness, people can find the silence and solitude that can connect them to
their evolutionary heritage and, through an experience of the eternal mystery,
can give them a sense of the sacredness of all creation.  
-- Sigurd Olson
There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society where none intrudes by the deep sea, and music in its roar.
I love not man the less, but nature more.  
-- Lord Byron
The carriage roads are a work worth preserving.  My grandfather's innermost sensibilities
about nature and spirit were manifested in his skill as a designer and road builder.  He set
aside his shyness to reveal what meant most to him in order to share it with other people.
The roads are the signature of my grandfather's delight made visible on the land he
loved.  In this time, when the earth is so ravaged, what better gift could a man of
these sensibilities have made?
-- Ann Rockefeller Roberts
Below, 1920's view -- an automobile has found its way onto a carriage road!
Below, The Eyrie, Mount Desert Island, summer home of John D. Rockefeller,
Jr., was constructed in 1910.  A lovely home, but, in its later years, it was
viewed as an anachronism, too large for continued use.  The grand old
house was demolished by family members in 1962.
Of all the people who went before to prepare the way for us, most of them would
not ask us to pay them back.  But what they do ask of us is to pay it forward, that
we make this place a better world for those who come after us, in the way that
they made it a better place for us.
-- Naomi Tutu
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Tell a friend:
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was born in 1874, the only son of an oil magnate father.  But his
interests revolved more around philanthropic endeavors than the business of running the
family companies.  He contributed time, energy and vast amounts of money to worthy causes
such as education, health, historic restoration and conservation.  Of these, conservation
was closest to his heart.  He purchased and donated land for several national parks,
including:  Acadia, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite and Shenandoah.