This article appeared in Yankee Magazine 2008


New England’s Magazine
July/August 2008 

The Guide Travel – Rooms of Wonder

Our question to renowned guidebook author Christina Tree was simply:
“If you could stay overnight at only five places in New England, where would they be?”

The Best View Around

The Claremont Hotel, Mount Desert’s oldest inn, possesses the grace but not the size or formality of a grand hotel – and the Maine Island’s best view.

Walking into the comfortably sized lobby, you pour a glass of ice water, ease into a wing chair by the fire or a rocker on the porch, and feel at home.  Upstairs the original 35 second- and third-floor guestrooms have been reduced to 24, all with closets and baths, furnished with refinished original pieces and graceful reproductions.  Rooms overlooking the tennis court cost less than those with views across the water to Acadia’s rounded mountains.

This is the view that mesmerizes guests rocking on the long veranda.  It’s what you see from every table in the glass-faced dining room, and from acres of the sloping lawns on which a few people usually dressed in white, clutching croquet mallets and pondering their next move on one of three velvety courts.

It’s like chess on grass,” observes hotel manager John Madeira, explaining that the first week in August marks the annual Claremont Croquet Tournament but that serious competitors are almost always on hand.  So too is Till Harkins, senior local croquet enthusiasts, who’ll teach the game to anyone who wants to learn.  His usual takers are children, who are very much at home here.  Families book one of the 14 housekeeping cottages of one of six rooms in the Phillips House, an annex with its own living room.  Light meals are served at The Boathouse.

A number of guests arrive under sail, and although there are always newcomers, there are also always more repeat visitors, who expect traditions to be honored, such as the inn’s Thursday night lectures on serious topics and its Saturday-night concerts, ranging from chamber music to jazz.

To underscore the residency of Daniel Sweimler, one of the area’s best know chefs, the dining room has been named “Xanthus,” a seemingly cryptic choice – but no mystery to Claremont regulars.  Xanthus Smith was a landscape artist who probably bartered his portrait of the hotel in exchange for a room back in 1885.  Hanging prominently in the dining room, the painting glows with the captivating spirit that still persists.


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