The following article published in the Living section of The Times Record - August of 2002.
By John Cole, Times Record Contributor
SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The view from the gentle hilltop where the Claremont Hotel rises in its 19th century glory is nothing less than magnificent.
For that hill slopes to the east, slides into the bright waters of Somes Sound and there across the water rise the rounded mountains of Mount Desert, the great glacial mementos that are the heart of Acadia National Park.
This single spot on the water’s edge in Southwest Harbor is one of the first in the nation to greet each new day’s rising sun. And on this cloudless early morning in August, that sun spills along the Claremont’s butter-yellow siding, heightens the contrast of the dark green shutters that frame each gleaming window, and encourages Seth French as he readies for his eight o’clock dive off the end of the hotel’s long dock.
Now the senior member of a three-generation family that has been summering at the Claremont for many years, French has never missed his before-breakfast dip.
It makes me feel so fine,” he said. All the troubles of the world just wash away, my heart beats faster and I’m ready for the day.”No one on the Claremont’s busy staff pays much attention to their guest who braves the chill Maine waters. They know the swimmer’s routine. Like so many of the men, women and children who fill every Claremont room every season, the French family has arrived every summer, year after year.
This is a family-friendly place. Children of all ages are not only welcome, but expected. Many spend each summer of their maturing lives on the Claremont porches, on the long dock, in the elegant boathouse and on the immaculate croquet court.
Boys who began learning the game when they were 6 or 7 are there at 19 or 20 to compete in, and perhaps win, the annual Claremont Croquet Classic, now in its third decade.
For this is indeed a summer hotel and has been since 1884 when the tradition was begun by Capt. Jesse Pease and his wife Grace, who built the four-story building that rises so imposingly on the Somes Sound shores.
Those were the days when rusticating prevailed as a summer activity, when theClaremont’s guests came and stayed from June to mid-September,
More than a century later, much the Claremont is still remarkably the same.
Surely continuity of ownership is one of the reasons. In 1908, Grace Clark Pease sold the Claremont to Mount Desert physician Dr. Joseph Dana Phillips and his wife Clara. And in 1968, Dr. Phillip’s son Lawrence sold to Allen and Gertrude McCue, of Yarmouth and Southwest Harbor. Their son William of Portland is the current owner.
Just three Maine families over 118 summers: this is surely one of the reasons the Claremont has maintained its particular magic for more than a century.
That and the sort of good fortune that arrived in the person of Jay Madeira in 1981. As the young hotel manager, Jay not only brought his administrative skills, but his talents as a woodworker and mariner. He’s still at it, along with much of the Madeira family, including his two daughters who now wait on tables in the great dining room that overlooks Somes Sound.
Madeira’s sister Janet helps in the office, and his brother Alan makes some of the finest wooden croquet sets in the nation. It is altogether a multi-talented family doing its best of behalf of one of the country’s oldest summer hotels.
And there’s a great deal that needs doing. The historic original building has 24 recently renovated guest rooms; the Philips House has six; and there are 13 housekeeping cottages, either under towering pines or along the Somes Sound shore.
Fireplaces and stoves allow an extension of Maine’s all-too-short summers, and the Claremont is becoming a favorite place for special events, weddings and late season conferences.
Now well into its second century, this landmark summer hotel gives every indication of sailing on into its third.