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Bar Harbor is a town on Mount Desert Island in Hancock County, Maine, United States. As of the 2010 census, its population is 5,235. Bar Harbor is a popular tourist destination in the Down East region of Maine and home to the College of the Atlantic, Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, and MDI Biological Laboratory (Salisbury Cove village). Until a catastrophic fire in 1947, the town was a noted summer colony for the wealthy. Bar Harbor is home to the largest parts of Acadia National Park, including Cadillac Mountain, the highest point within twenty-five miles (40 km) of the coastline of the Eastern United States. The town is served by the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport, which provides year-round direct flights to Boston, Massachusetts.
The town of Bar Harbor was founded on the northeast shore of Mount Desert Island, which the Wabanaki Indians knew as Pemetic, meaning “range of mountains” or “mountains seen at a distance.” The Wabanaki seasonally fish, hunt, and gather berries, clams, and other shellfish in the area. They speak of Bar Harbor as Man-es-ayd’ik (“clam-gathering place”) or Ah-bays’auk (“clambake place”), leave great piles of shells as evidence of this abundance. In early September 1604, French explorer Samuel de Champlain ran aground on a rock ledge believed to be Egg Rock, just off Otter Cliffs, and when he came ashore to repair his boat he met local natives. Champlain named the island Isles des Monts Deserts, meaning “island of barren mountains”—now called Mount Desert Island, the largest in Maine.
In 1761, Abraham Somes established the first European village on Mount Desert Island, naming it Somesville. Somes Sound was named after him, the only naturally occurring fjord on the East Coast of the United States. Bar Harbor itself was first settled by Europeans in 1763 by Israel Higgins and John Thomas and incorporated on February 23, 1796, as Eden, after Sir Richard Eden, an English statesman.
Early industries included fishing, lumbering, and shipbuilding. With the best soil on Mount Desert Island, it also developed agriculture, with the main focus on dairy. In the 1840s, its rugged maritime scenery attracted the Hudson River School and Luminism artists Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, William Hart, and Fitz Henry Lane. Inspired by their paintings, journalists, sportsmen, and “rusticators” followed. Agamont House, the first hotel in Eden, was established in 1855 by Tobias Roberts. Birch Point, the first summer estate, was built in 1868 for Alpheus Harding.