Thursday, December 5, 2013
By TOM ATWELL, Special to the Maine Sunday Telegram
John D. Rockefeller Jr. was heir to the Standard Oil fortune. He was shy and retiring, but detail-oriented. When he bought property on Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park, he wanted places to drive his carriages, so he constructed the first of the carriage roads shortly thereafter.
Ann Rockefeller Roberts
MEET THE AUTHOR
ANN ROCKEFELLER ROBERTS and Mary Louise Pierson will be at Jordan Pond House at Acadia National Park for a book signing from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday
The project lasted 27 years, from the mid-1910s into the 1940s, and Rockefeller -- often called JDR Jr. or just Junior -- laid out and designed the roads largely by himself, to follow the contours of the land and allow the best possible views.
Ann Rockefeller Roberts, daughter of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and granddaughter of JDR Jr., wrote a master's thesis about the roads, then turned that into a book in 1990.
A new edition of that book, "Mr. Rockefeller's Roads," was recently published by Down East (256 pages, $19.95). Roberts' daughter, Mary Louise Pierson, took new photographs and rescanned old ones to make the book much better than the original. Ed Winterberg, a major part of the renovation of the carriage roads who ran the stables for many years, filled in the years from 1990 to the present.
The result is a complete and fascinating history of not only the carriage roads, but to an extent, Acadia National Park.
Roberts recently spoke to us about the new edition.
Q: How did this second edition of the book come about? The original started out as a master's thesis, didn't it?
A: It started out as a a master's thesis, and my adviser said, "You have to publish this," and I muttered and fussed about not being a writer, and he said, "You just wrote this."
So I did some more research, and a friend suggested I contact Down East. The first edition was printed in 1990, and it must have been out of print for six or eight years. Down East somehow decided they were interested in doing it again and giving it a new edition, a new format and upgrading the quality of the paper. I organized it all, having the old photographs and papers rescanned in higher definition, and they are just beautiful in this edition.
Q: The photographs by Mary Louise Pierson add a lot to the book. Do her photos replace black-and-white photos from the first book, or are they additions?
A: We used some of those, and did not use some of these. But I agree, my daughter's photos are great, and add a lot to the book with all those beautiful spreads.
Q: Do you consider the Carriage Roads and JDR Jr.'s role in the creation of Acadia National Park one of his greatest legacies?
A: It was one of the his greatest legacies, something that was very close to his heart. He fell in love with Mount Desert Island and made a home there.
He became part of a group with Charles Eliot, president of Harvard, and George Dorr, who hatched the whole thing. Those three had the foresight and a vision of the park, and the very reason that I was able to write the book was that I found pages and pages of records about it. The telephone was not one of the things that everyone spent half the day on, so he would continue the work by writing when he was away in the winter.
Q: Why did you get Ed Winterberg, who worked on the renovation and ran the stables for many years, to write the update chapter instead of doing it yourself?
A: Because I didn't have any idea of how it all got done. I got to know him when he was director of Wildwood Stables with his wife, Bobbi, and they did the work with Jack Hauptman. Ed and Jack worked on that chapter together, although Ed did the writing. Before that era, we all knew the park and roads were falling apart. When I was biking and riding the roads, there was a softness to the road, and the drainage was overgrown.
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