Notes from the Archives: Gardens of Mount Desert Island, as related to the Patrick Chassé Landscape Architecture Collection

By Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist & Cataloger

Nose deep into slides of gardens for months, I slowly became entranced with the idea of visiting gardens for my birthday last June, on Mount Desert Island (MDI) where most of the gardens designed by Patrick Chassé were located. Patrick and I share workspace at Maine Historical Society’s off-site storage facility. As I got to know his collection (Coll. 4180), I also got to know Patrick, who was sifting through his life’s work as Principal of Landscape Design Associates, based in Bar Harbor, Maine, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Patrick shared many stories about his clients, ranging from the more well-known (the Rockefellers, Brooke Astor, and Martha Stewart) to the less famous but equally philanthropic and high powered, as well as the average person who needed advice about their garden. Of even more interest to me was Patrick’s research into historic gardens, specifically those designed by Beatrix Farrand (1872-1959). Farrand designed many gardens on her beloved Mount Desert Island, and elsewhere including the New York Botanical Gardens, Dumbarton Oaks, and Princeton University. I felt a certain kinship with Beatrix, as her papers are at the University of California at Berkeley, and I was a Berkeley baby (my parents met while working there, and my father and brother were UC Berkeley graduates). Beatrix also was involved in the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens, in another part of California where I spent my teenage years.

Finally, June arrived. It was time to see some of the gardens that I learned about through Patrick’s voluminous slide collection (nearly 24,000 slides) and vast project files (151 document boxes), as well as gardens in general, on MDI. Thuya Gardens opened a week after our trip, and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden opened in July. Our first garden, the Asticou Azalea Garden, was open, and we were warmly welcomed by docents. Although the azaleas were on their way out, this very Zen-like garden, with Japanese influence, soothed us, and invited us to sit and contemplate.

Next on the pilgrimage was Garland Farm, home of the Beatrix Farrand Society, and where Farrand spent her final years. Although they weren’t officially open to visitors for another week, I had wiggled my way in, by asking to see the library (as a librarian). The director, Patrick Calloway (yes, another Patrick!), kindly showed me not only the library, but also the entire house and garden area. This filled my soul with delight. Patrick Chassé was very involved with this garden, as you can imagine, and for a while maintained a studio here.

We then ventured to College of the Atlantic to view a few more beautiful gardens, although we missed the one designed by Beatrix Farrand. Next time! The final one we visited during our sojourn was Wild Gardens of Acadia in the national park. This was where Patrick first met these two “white haired ladies,” Elizabeth “Betty” Thorndike and Janet TenBroeck, founders of the garden, who influenced Patrick’s career in landscape design.

The public gardens we visited are just a drop in the bucket of the gardens that Patrick worked on at MDI, but being on his beloved island really informed my work for the rest of the “year of Patrick,” where I delved into his life and career.

To see more of my garden sojourn, visit my photo album.

International Appalachian Trail: Collection from the Founders

By Jordis Rosberg. MHS Project Archivist

In the summer of 2021, Maine Historical Society received the papers and records of the Maine chapter of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT) from founders Richard Anderson and Don Hudson. Anderson first conceived of the IAT in 1993 as a trail that would extend north along the eponymous mountain chain from the Appalachian Trail’s terminus at Katahdin, Maine, across the border into Canada and, eventually, across the Atlantic Ocean. This trail would follow the geological remnants of the original range formed by the supercontinent Pangea hundreds of millions of years ago, which today spans portions of the United States, Canada, Greenland, Western Europe, and North Africa.

Richard Anderson, 1996

It was no small feat to take the seed of this idea for an International Appalachian Trail and turn it into a reality. The organizational records gifted to MHS (Coll. 4213) reveal years’ worth of thoughtful route planning, land lease agreements, public relations, campsite creation and maintenance, and cooperative work with representatives and trail enthusiasts in a dozen countries. To accomplish these many and varied tasks, IAT incorporated as a non-profit, established a board of directors, created trail guides, maps, and other merchandise to assist hikers and raise funds, and corresponded with Maine landowners and lawmakers. The IAT collection offers a crash course in grassroots efforts, perseverance, and the physical and cultural contours of trails and hiking. The magnitude of the IAT undertaking is clear with just a quick glance at the 27 archival boxes packed with material.

Informational material by SIA-IAT, representing the trail in Canada
and the United States
Map by Charlie Gilman depicting proposed routes for the trail through the Saint Croix Lake region.

The collection contains more than administrative and organizational records, however. Filed amongst the various IAT documents, records, maps, and plans are also newsletters and brochures of other trail associations in the U.S., Canada, and beyond. Folders with pages from trail registers containing notes left by hikers using IAT lean-tos complement letters from thru hikers sharing their experiences of and suggestions for the trail.

Carefully penned and hand-drawn plans for routes and drafts of trail guides are housed alongside correspondence revealing the depth of thought, planning and detail that went into the creation and maintenance of the IAT. And throughout are hundreds of photographs documenting the beauty of Northern Maine and Canada. All of these records together immerse the user in the world of long-distance hiking – its language, camaraderie, and particular quietude.

Architectural drawings for an IAT lean-to, 2005

The IAT collection has many potential uses. Certainly, anyone with an interest – personal, professional, or scholarly – in hiking, trails, non-profit organizations, and Maine’s recreational land use would find much of note in the collection. Anderson and Hudson delivered the IAT materials particularly well-organized, and this fact, coupled with their overall diligence in record keeping, means that the IAT collection also offers an interesting glimpse into general organizational processes and administration. 

Altogether, the IAT collection is one of historic, aesthetic, organizational, and human interest. We look forward to sharing it with visitors to the MHS Brown Research Library in the years ahead, and to learning more about its connections to the people, places, and story of Maine. 

Jordis Rosberg is an archivist and librarian who processed this collection for MHS as part of an internship sponsored by the International Appalachian Trail (IAT).

Northern Threads Exhibition Opens Eagerly Awaited Part II

Following its successful and well-received Part I, NORTHERN THREADS: Two Centuries of Dress at Maine Historical Society opens Part II on Friday, August 12, 2022.

From flapper dresses to leisure suits, Maine Historical Society (MHS) presents clothing, vintage wear and fascinating stories of Maine people spanning late 19th and 20th centuries (1890 to 1980.) All-new vignettes include Turn-of-the-Century; Designer fashions; the Maine Outdoors; Women at Work and a World at War; Chemistry and Fashion; Bridal and Formalwear; and Silhouettes in Sequence.

New and returning visitors will encounter even more beautifully dressed mannequins, accessories and artifacts beyond those in Part I (which focused on 1790-1889 clothing). Trends, fibers, themes, and narratives will contextualize garments into distinct facets of 19th and 20th century Maine and American history. Many visitors will relive memories of parents, grandparents, high school, weddings and proms as they view a progression of styles that were once all the rage. Younger gallery guests attracted to retro and vintage clothing will find inspiration in the variety of surprising patterns, colors, and funky fashions.

Central to MHS’ 200th anniversary, NORTHERN THREADS considers how the clothing Maine people have worn reveals the social, economic, and environmental history of our state. For example, the exhibition explores fabric production and accessibility, women’s independence, and the devastating impact of the fur industry.

Virtual Access: Illuminating history though never-before-exhibited items from MHS’ permanent collection, NORTHERN THREADS also opens unprecedented online public access through the Maine Memory Network. A 3-D virtual tour and detailed digital exhibit (online August 31) increase accessibility 24/7 for those unable to visit the gallery in person, or for guests seeking to explore the MHS Historic Clothing, Costume and Dress Collection portal.

Public Programs: Most public programs are free and virtual, such as Black Fashion History in Maine: Examining the Clothing in Nineteenth-Century Photographs with Karin J. Bohleke on August 9.

Companion Exhibits: The following in-person mini-exhibits rotate within the MHS galleries. Check for these exhibition dates, NORTHERN THREADS programming, and for updates on MHS’ 200th anniversary activities and events.

  • Cosmopolitan Stylings of Mildred and Madeleine Burrage;
  • Representing every particular: John Martin’s 19th century fashion illustrations;
  • Fashion for the People: Maine Graphic Tees;
  • Wadsworth-Longfellow family historic clothing, 1780-1825 on view in the popular Wadsworth-Longfellow House during the peak summer season; and
  • Chansonetta Stanley Emmons: Staging the Past

How to see NORTHERN THREADS: Visit for details on tickets and admission to the MHS gallery on 489 Congress Street in Portland. Access for MHS members is free; general admission adults $10; children (6-17) $5, and under 6, free. Become a member before you book!

Northern Threads is made possible by dedicated staff, contributors, partners, and donors, including:

BHA Foundation Fund

Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust

Elsie A. Brown Fund, Inc.

The Coby Foundation for Textiles, Ltd.

The Davis Family Foundation

Down East Magazine (Media Sponsor)

Institute of Museum & Library Services

William Sloane Jelin Foundation

The Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust

Karen and Kirk Pelletier

Deborah S. Reed

The Phineas W. Sprague Memorial Foundation

Doris S. Stockly