Show house bridges a century of design

A modern fireplace and unique hardwood flooring grace the downstairs living area at the Vanderbilt Carriage House Designer Show House.

BAR HARBOR — The Vanderbilt Carriage House designer show home not only spotlights the talents of Maine’s top interior designers and architects. It also provides a tangible link between the present and the lives of one of America’s leading families from more than a century ago.

That’s why it’s only fitting that this year’s design project from visionary Kim Swan, owner of Swan Agency Sotheby’s International Realty, will benefit the Bar Harbor Historical Society, which has helped provide context and perspective on the renovation of the more than 100-year-old building.

Last week, more than two dozen contractor pickup trucks and vans surrounded the structure as crews worked to put the finishing touches on 16 custom-designed and furnished rooms including multiple bedrooms, kitchens, family rooms, living rooms and an office. The latest in modern plumbing, heating and electrical systems have been installed.

A new deck has also been added to the back of the building.

The former garage and stable has been converted into two spacious and airy units that later will be sold as condominium units. Each, including the former chauffeur’s quarters downstairs, features three bedrooms and three baths.

Whenever possible, the original wood floors and wainscoting have been preserved. In some instances, wood removed from one part of the building was recycled as trim in another. The original gambrel shape of the structure has not changed. It has received new cedar shingle siding, new trim and a new roof. It was insulated throughout.

The building, part of the Bogue Chitto subdivision being developed by Brian Shaw and Paul Paradis, was once a former garage and stable, although it had been used for decades as a summer residence (see related story below).

Swan, who has also partnered with “Maine Home + Design Magazine” for the project, has even taken on decorating one of the rooms herself.

For Swan, who last year did a designer showhouse at Brightholme on Wyman Lane, the excitement of bringing so many talented people together in one place is the best reward.

When to go:

The Vanderbilt Carriage House will be open to the public beginning Saturday, July 12 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The cost of admission is $20. The show house will remain open until Aug. 19. Several special events are planned for later in the summer.

The Vanderbilt Carriage House is located on Eden Street (Route 3) directly across from the entrance to the Acadia National Park Visitor’s Center.

For more information call 288-5818.

Carriage house has Vanderbilt connection

The legacy of this year’s designer show house, the Vanderbilt Carriage House, dates back to Bar Harbor’s Golden Age when the harbor bristled with the yachts of industrial titans such as John D. Rockefeller, J. Pierpoint Morgan, Andrew Carnegie and, of course, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Located across from the main entrance to Acadia National Park, the property that was once home to the Bogue Chitto estate was developed by David Hennen Morris and his wife, Alice Vanderbilt Shepard.

She was the granddaughter of the Commodore. Margaret Louisa Vanderbilt, and Elliot Fitch Shepard, Sr., were her parents.

By all accounts, little Alice led anything but a comfortable childhood. After being ordered not to, she one day decided to climb a tree and fell severely, injuring her spine. Her stern father decided to teach her a lesson by not allowing her to get medical attention.

The injury led to permanent disfigurement.

Known as “Angel” due to her positive disposition and beautiful face, she later in life caught the attention of Morris, who told others that she was the woman he was going to marry after seeing her face while on a cruise to France. When Morris asked Mr. Shepard for his daughter’s hand in marriage, Mr. Shepard refused claiming the young suitor would never amount to anything. As he went to leave, Morris reportedly whispered to Alice that he wanted her to elope with him.

She climbed out the window of the family’s posh estate along the Hudson River in New York, and the rest is history.

Bogue Chitto, a Louisiana Native American expression for “Brook of Shadows,” was built in 1888 by Mr. Morris’ father, John, as a summer residence, according to the late Gladys O’Neil’s book “Lost Bar Harbor.”

John and Alice went on to have six children. Morris, a close friend of Franklin Roosevelt, went on to become U.S. Ambassador to Belgium and minister to Luxembourg in the 1930s.

The main house on the Bogue Chitto property, which is now a residential subdivision, was torn down by the family in the early 1960s. The carriage house featured as this year’s design showplace was used by family members for many years after that as a summer home.

The present carriage house building was built more than 100 years ago after the original barn on the property was destroyed by fire. In fact, it may have been the first building constructed on the island specifically to accommodate both horses and cars.

Although automobiles had yet to be allowed on Mount Desert Island, Morris directed the structure be built to accommodate them. “I am now of different opinion,” he wrote on the auto ban. “I must admit that most of those objections no longer hold true, and it may be unreasonable and selfish of us to keep out a vehicle that has revolutionized the modern world.”

Vanderbilt Carriage House Design Team, 2014

Terri Scott

T. Scott Design

First Floor Living/Dining

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Pamela Hall

Ellsworth Builders

First Floor Kitchen

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Annie K

Annie K. Designs

First Floor Master Bedroom and Bath

[email protected]

Larry Stoddard

Distinctive Tile & Design

Tile and install for bathrooms throughout

Design on First Floor Home Office Bath

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Kim Swan

Swan Hospitality Group

First Floor Home Office

[email protected]

Jan Robinson

Eco Home

First Floor Guest Bath

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Lori Chase

Coastal Interiors

Second floor nursery bedroom

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Augusto Rosa

a4 Architects Interiors

Second Floor Living Room

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Brett Johnson

Maine Street Design

Second Floor Master Bedroom and Bath

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Tyler Karu

Candace Karu

Landing Design

Second Floor Dining Room

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Edi Hall

Island Interiors

Second Floor Kitchen

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Betsy Stires

Froghill Designs

Second Floor guest bedroom and bath

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Rob Krieg

Coplon Associates


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Earl Brechlin

Editor at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander editor Earl Brechlin first discovered Mount Desert Island 35 years ago and never left. The author of seven guide and casual history books, he is a Registered Maine Guide and has served as president of the Maine and New England Press Associations. He and his wife live in Bar Harbor.

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