Who's Who at Mountain View

Hotels of Camden

By Barbara Dyer | Sep 27, 2014
Mt. Battie House

As I have pretty much covered the “summer cottages“ and Camden businesses in the good old days, I don’t want to ignore the hotels of early days. Camden had tourists back in the early 1800s, and they needed places for nice food and lodging. Meetings were held in the hotels, as they could dine and then carry on whatever business they needed. It is said that most of the best decisions were made after the group had full stomachs.

One of the early places was the Mountain View House, standing on the heights overlooking the waters of Camden harbor. The guests claimed that no matter how hot the day was, there was always a cool breeze on the porches of this place. People returned year-after-year to enjoy the quiet and restfulness. It is there today on Bay View Street, just above and across from the Camden Yacht Club. It was owned in 1916 by F. O. Martin and was open from June 25 to October 1. Each year he added attractions to the house and grounds. He advertised that it was near to the shore, convenient to the golf links (Megunticook Golf Club), and all of Camden’s summer activities. In the 1930s it was owned by Mrs. Edwards. Some of my classmates, when they reached high school age, could get jobs there washing dishes or being waitresses. They felt so happy to work six days a weeks for $3. It was during the Great Depression and any spending money was great. It was sold and enlarged many times since then. It is now Camden Harbour Inn, with Natalie’s Restaurant, and highly rated for its excellence in all respects.

Another place was on the “Shore Road”, now known as Atlantic Highway. It was 200 feet above the sea and at that time you had a great view of Penobscot Bay. When Dr. Ordway of the Ordway Plaster Factory left his beautiful “mail order bride” for another person, his former wife had to support herself. So she started with what she named the “Ordway Cottage,” that was quite small then and took in boarders. As her business grew, she added on to the building. She became very successful, so added on many times. The dining room included main, private, maids’, chauffeurs’ and children’s dining rooms. Today we know it as Whitehall Inn. It is still a very popular hotel in town today and has changed hands several times owned by the Hurlberts, Dewings and others. It was maintained in the old cottage style with wicker rockers on the porch, no television sets, but still nicely furnished. They have a Millay room. In the summer of 1912, Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sister Norma invited her to attend a party at Whitehall Inn. Each year they held the affair for the help, who had worked that summer, and her sister had been a waitress. After she arrived they asked "Vincent" to play the piano, and she did. Then when they asked to recite some of her poetry; she chose "Renascence." One late-summer guest then said she would see that “Vincent” could attend Vassar College on scholarship and not to worry about any other expenses. That break came for her at the Whitehall Inn -- her poetry later became known world-wide and she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1922 for poetry.

Another hotel was the Mount Battie House, located on the summit of Mt. Battie. The only road was an old carriage road off Mountain Street and not easy to travel there. It was owned by the Mt. Battie Association, and became an exclusive hotel in 1900. It remained until 1920. Many say it burned because of several bad fires on the mountain, but that is not true. The association felt it was not profitable and tore it down.

One postcard of Camden, with the Mt. Battie House on it, the lady stated she had a fish dinner there. My mother told me that a glass of water was five cents. To get water up there was quite a feat, so I am surprised it was not more expensive than that. The lavish parties, that soon became a memory of the past, were held mostly by members of the Mt. Battie Association, who also had purchased the summit, so nothing could ever be built. The Association did approve building the tower as a memorial to World War I veterans. The stones from the foundation of the Mt. Battie House were used to build the tower seen there today.

Local newspapers first mentioned the Bay View House in 1801, when the Amity Lodge of Masons held its first meeting in the Benjamin Palmer Hall. The hotel was located on the space now called The Village Green. About eight years later newspapers called it the principal hotel in Camden. Many tourists who visited Camden stayed at this great place that could seat 250 at a banquet. On November 16, 1917 the hotel was destroyed by fire and the burned timbers buried in the ground. Children from the Elm Street School were let out of school that day to watch it burn. A few years after, Mary Curtis Bok and several others built the Village Green for Camden.

The Ocean House was located where Camden Public Library is today. It was a popular place, but it burned to the ground in 1903. Its timbers and well are buried beneath the library grounds. Some pieces of its china and pottery were found when excavating for the Centennial Wing of the library.

That, I believe, covers most of the early hotels in Camden.

Barbara Dyer is Camden's official town historian. While she has officially retired from writing Who's Who, she often submits "just one more" for publication.

Bay View Hotel burning.
Comments (2)
Posted by: Paul Smith | Sep 28, 2014 12:10

(Note, above posted by Sarah, not Paul--defaults to his name on our account)

 



Posted by: Paul Smith | Sep 28, 2014 12:10

LOVE these pieces of Camden history!



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