It all started, I was told by a Mainer with 5 generations of Bar Harbor carpenters in her genes, with a stubborn, pregnant, woman. Never mind that her father-in-law was the founder of Standard Oil. Never mind that she could have hired any obstetrician she wanted. She wanted the same doctor who’d delivered her first 2 babies.
That equally stubborn physician informed Mrs. Rockefeller that, unfortunately, he would not be in New York State when the blessed event was to occur. He and his famiy would be summering in Maine. He wished her well.
I suspect Mrs. Rockefeller was seldom so inconvenienced. In this case, she was as stubborn as her doctor. She and her famiy packed up, and that 3rd baby, Nelson, destined to be Governor of New York and then Vice President of the United States, was born in Bar Harbor on schedule, July 8, 1908.
The Rockefeller family has never left Maine.
Earlier this summer 2 of my granddaughters and I took the “Rockefeller Bridge Tour,” (http://www.carriagesofacadia.com) along some of the 45 miles of 16-foot wide, broken-stone carriage roads Nelson’s father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. gave to the United States as part of Acadia National Park. (Some of the additional 5 miles still on Rockefeller land were included, too.) The carriage roads, and 17 pink and gray granite bridges, were designed by Rockefeller himself, working with landscape architects and engineers, for horses, carriages, and those walking.
They were built between 1913 and 1939 by 700 men. Our tour guide told us Mr. Rockfeller instructed the men to used slower methods, so he could keep them employed during hard times. He paid $7 a day: more than many jobs during the Depression.
Today the carriage roads and bridges hand-built of local stones are a special part of Acadia National Park. A part of the Rockefeller family’s legacy to the American people.
But the Rockefellers haven’t left. About 8 years ago I did a talk and signing for my Shadows on the Coast of Maine in a small (unhappily, now closed) bookstore in Somesville, not far from Acadia. I asked the owner how many people we could expect that evening. As she set up about forty chairs she said, “I think this should be enough. We had a few more people here last night. But that was for a local author.” “Who was it?” I asked, curiously. She just pointed to a small pile of signed books on a table near the door. The tile was The ABBY ALDRICH ROCKEFELLER GARDEN (http://www.gardenpreserve.org) My predecessor at the store had been David Rockefeller.
Sorry I missed him.
(Message from the driver/guide: “If you enjoyed the ride — You may kiss the horses and tip the guide.” Vanessa and Samantha opted to pat the horses. I chose the second option.)