Close

Peary’s Eagle Island

Just this past Tuesday I took a trip out to Admiral Peary’s Eagle Island. All too often because I live here in Maine I seem to not be able to get out beyond the little village where I live and get to some of the prettiest places that Maine has to offer.

The  twenty passenger boat that makes it’s way out there met us at Cook’s Lobster House on Bailey Island. Bailey Island is the southernmost Island of a string of Islands known locally as The Harpswells.

Boats at Cooks Lobster House
Boats at Cooks Lobster House

Admiral Robert Edwin Peary is most known for his accomplishment to have planted the American Flag at the North Pole on April 6, 1909. This was the achievement of a lifelong dream for Admiral Peary who spent a significant portion of his career employed as a cartographer as well as a civil engineer in The United States Navy.

Peary's Eagle Island
Peary's Eagle Island

His other lifelong dream was to build a home on Eagle Island in Casco Bay which he was able to purchase in 1877 for the grand sum of $200.00 just after he graduated with honors from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. It is said that he paid for the Island with money he had earned on his own.

Peary's Eagle Island Home
Peary's Eagle Island Home

The house is located on the northernmost point of this seventeen acre island. Peary evidently envisioned this point of the island as much like that of the bow of a ship sailing northward.

Passage to Peary's Eagle Island
Passage to Peary's Eagle Island

Peary and his family spent summers on Eagle Island from 1904 until 1955. One of the tour guides quotes Peary’s son as having said “Our home was in Washington D.C., but we really LIVED on Eagle Island.

When I was there this week our boat pulled up to a nicely constructed dock and passage way leading to the island and the house. But as I understand it during the day’s that the Peary family spent summers here there was no such dock. The family would maneuver their boat through the precarious rocky passage and then unload their boat and belongings on the beach just below the house.

As we approach the house across the lawn we come first to the doorway into Admiral

Doorway to the Admiral's study
Doorway to the Admiral's study

Peary’s study which is located in the round stone structure with the lovely windows that look out to sea.

Admiral Peary's Study
Admiral Peary's Study
South Harpswell as seen from Eagle Island
South Harpswell to the north as seen from Eagle Island

The tour guide told me that often either the caretaker or a member of the family would bring supplies including blocks of ice from South Harpswell to the Peary’s Eagle Island in a row boat.

The Peary House from the back looking north towards Harpswell
The Peary House from the back looking north towards Harpswell

During the time they spent summers here they had no electricity or running water. They had lovely oil lamps that are preserved there just as they were 100 years ago. And even now there is an outhouse which accommodates the Park Ranger who manages Eagle Island as a Maine Historic site, the volunteers and summer visitors who come to the island.

On March 11, 1911 Peary retired from the Navy a full Rear Admiral. The first order of business for him was to gather all the quality carpenters, masons, and other craftsmen who would then craft the house that now sits proudly on the northernmost bluff fulfilling Peary’s vision of his house as if it were the prow of a grand ship heading north through Casco Bay.

Three Sided Fireplace
Three sided fireplace.

While I have seen many older homes in Maine that boast, among other things a grand center chimney often with four flues this house has the only three sided fireplace I have ever seen. The tour guide made sure to mention that each of the three sides was crafted of a different kind of stone.

Atlantic Queen Cookstove
Atlantic Queen Cookstove

In the kitchen you can see an old Queen Atlantic stove. More than likely this stove served not only as a cook stove but as a source of heat for the more chilly Maine spring and autumn seasons.

Seaside Bedroom
Seaside Bedroom

Once finished the house boasted five bedrooms upstairs. My first thought at seeing the windows looking out to the ocean was how nice it would be to wake up in the morning to such a fabulous view to say nothing of the sounds of crashing surf below.

Player Piano before the days of cell phones & Computers
Player Piano before the days of cell phones & Computers

The Payer Piano which sits along one wall not far from the three sided fireplace is one octave shorter than most pianos so that it would fit perfectly along that wall. Evidently no one missed that extra octave. It was a luxury just having it out there for the family to enjoy.

Admiral Peary died at the age of sixty-four in Washington D.C., on January 20, 1920 from an incurable (at that time) case of pernicious anemia.

View out to Sea
View out to Sea

In 1955 after the death of Admiral Peary’s wife the surviving family chose to give Peary’s Eagle Island to the State of Maine so that it could be preserved as a Maine Historic site which could then be enjoyed by travelers who come to the island during the summer months.

The present Park Ranger has lived in the caretakers cottage for the past seventeen summers. The flowers that can be seen all about the island and near the house are her contribution to a well loved island. The tours of the house are facilitated by the all volunteer crew of The Friends of Eagle Island.

Caretakers Cottage & Lobster bouys
Caretakers Cottage & Lobster bouys

If you’d care to help preserve this historic site you can do so by becoming  a member of the Friends of Eagle Island. This all volunteer, non-profit group serves to maintain Peary’s Eagle Island just as it was One Hundred Years ago.

Peary's Eagle Island
Peary's Eagle Island
Leaving Peary's Eagle Island & Heading for Bailey's Island
Leaving Peary's Eagle Island & Heading for Bailey's Island

Related Posts

22 thoughts on “Peary’s Eagle Island

  1. Vitoria

    Hey Jim!

    Like I imagined. You describe all of you own experience, history(of generations), places and it’s characteristics very well.

    Cool pictures also and hey, how beautiful places you have not that far away. It’s not far for you, but for many of us, yes!

    Love & light,

    Vitoria

    1. admin

      Thanks very much for the beautiful comment Vitoria. And yes there are many beautiful places right here in Maine, in fact right out my door.

      I’m looking forward to sharing my next great adventure.

      Jim

  2. Gary Young China Sourcing

    Jim,

    What a great adventure. All of those memories you have built up will last a lifetime. I’m definitely a big fan for leaving the office and home and taking a trip that will be unforgettable.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. marquita herald

    As always, love the photos … and oh, I do love Maine! Of course it’s about as far away as you can get from where I live in Maui without going to a foreign country so it’s been awhile since my last visit. Thanks for the memories.

  4. Yorinda

    Hi Jim,

    thank you for taking me on a tour to this Island and being the tour guide with detailed historic information.
    A 3 sided fireplace, how cool is that.
    The ‘cookstove’ or coalrange as we call it here brings back memories of cooking on a few of them.
    Transporting ice on a row boat, how long would it take to row across? Did they need double the quantity to have any ice left? 🙂

    Thank you for the great article and pictures.
    Cheers
    Yorinda

    1. admin

      When I first moved to Maine I lived in a house in Bath, Maine where we actually used the old Atlantic Queen stove to cook on and also to heat a part of the house. The stove also served as a heat source for the hot water in the house. It was quite an experience.

      You have a good question about the ice. I suspect that they had to bring several loads of ice over to the island to keep perishable foods from spoiling.

      It’s a lot of fun for me to share the experiences I have when I travel.

      Jim

  5. Theuns

    Hi Jim

    Thanks for the tour on the island LOL . well one of my dreams is to have my own so
    it was great to see what Admiral Peary did . Nice to look ar the photos thanks .

    Best Regards
    Theuns

  6. William Earl Amis, Jr. III

    Jim,
    this was an amazing ride through time. I love the historical places we have here in New England. There are so many unique finds and you have located one fantastic place. Rich in history and still keeping people visiting for a touch of calmer times.

    I love visiting your blog of travels. If one can not physically be there. Your writing style has us believing we took the journey with you.

    Thanks for sharing and keep us alive with these awesome adventures.

    1. admin

      Thanks for the really nice comment William. I’ve actually known about Admiral Peary’s house being out there on one of the islands just beyond the Harpswell’s for quite some time. But for one reason or another I just never made it out there until now. There are oodles of great places like this to visit in Maine. And once I get my act together I will do a post on Lobster fishing. I have a couple of recent videos.

      And then next I will be traveling to Greece & Scotland. So there are many adventures yet to share.
      It’s nice being able to share my adventures with you and the rest of my readers.

      Jim

  7. Loren

    Hi Jim:

    Wow! A romantic island and wonderful place to visit. Thanks for taking us along on your journey. I’ve heard so much about the beauty of Maine and The Harpswells and would love to visit, especially now after reading your post and seeing your photos. It was fun to follow your history lesson and story about Admiral Perry. It really is special to live on an island but I think even moreso today to experience life “off the grid” for even a short while is quite special.

  8. John Gaydon

    Hi Jim,

    Wow, this is a wonderful place. Last time we were in this area, we got as far as New Haqmpshire.

    I am going to have to find a way to get to Maine now! You do a very thorough job relating the places you visit.

    1. admin

      We have many wonderful places in Maine. We also have some fabulous sea food. When I get to it, I did take some videos of the captain of our boat doing a little bit of Lobster fishing. I think you would enjoy seeing Maine. But try to come here in either the summer or fall seasons. Spring tends to be a bit muddy and unpredictable. And winter tends to be really cold. 🙂

      Jim

  9. Fredrick Contreas

    Nice review! This is exactly the type of article that needs to be shared around the internet. Sad on the Bing for not ranking this blog post higher!

  10. Dr. Erica Goodstone

    Jim,

    What a treat to bring us to this magnificent home. Admiral Peary’s family must have loved that home, especially as they visited there in the summers. It just shows the power of having a dream, a vision, and then fulfilling it. Thanks for taking us on this virtual trip.

    Erica

  11. David Paul

    What a wonderful piece, Jim. I felt as if I was on that tour with you. Could almost smell the salty air and the cinders from that three sided fireplace. Amazingly well writen.

    Thank you for the experience and the wonderful history lesson.

    David H. Paul

  12. Kevin Martineau

    What a fascinating place Jim!

    I love these types of things. I love checking out old buildings with a lots of history. If I ever make it to that part of the world I am going to have to check it out!

    Kevin

    1. admin

      There are lots of interesting places in Maine, and all over the world, really. Getting to them is often the difficulty. But I will keep going to different places. I love to travel and experience all that the world has to offer. Thanks for the nice comment.

  13. Whitney Caberto

    I must say I am impressed. It’s not very often that I encounter a website that’s both educative as well as amusing. Just want to let you know that you’ve hit the nail on the head. Your suggestion is fantastic. Thank you is all I really have to say .

  14. Sally

    I have to say that this makes me want to take a trip out & visit the house. My mother was actually born & raised on Orr’s Island, the Island right before Bailey’s Island, so I know the area some, but never realized there was such a great house on Eagle Island. Beautiful area on the whole region, so one of these days, I’ll get out there & visit. Thanks for the great tour & pictures. 🙂

    1. admin

      Absolutely Sally you should come and visit. Even Orr’s Island is a special place. There are many wonderful things and places to see in Maine. Of course, as a resident I suggest that you visit us in the warmer seasons of the year as you will like it much better. I have an aunt who lives in Florida who claims that she will never again come to see me during the winter. And admittedly it can be somewhat chilly here during the winter months.

Leave a Reply to Kevin Martineau Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *