Section Navigation

Acadia’s Three Birthdays

July 8, 1916 – On this date, the lands that would become Acadia National Park first gained federally-protected status when President Woodrow Wilson accepted 5,000 acres on Mount Desert Island as a gift to the American people. Called Sieur de Monts National Monument (named for the patron of French geographer Samuel de Champlain’s 1604 explorations of what is now the Maine coast), this preserved landscape encompassed Cadillac Mountain, Eagle Lake, Ocean Drive, and other iconic Acadia destinations. The year 1916 has always been identified as Acadia’s birthday, with subsequent anniversaries calculated from this year.

February 26, 1919 – Not quite three years after its founding, Sieur de Monts National Monument became Lafayette National Park. Seeking additional protections for these lands within the newly-established National Park Service, George B. Dorr had been advocating steadily toward this goal. Meanwhile, World War I was raging in Europe. Lafayette, the name of the Frenchman who had served alongside George Washington in the Revolutionary War, was now the name given to squadrons of American pilots fighting for France. As Dorr wrote in his memoir, The Story of Acadia National Park, “That was a time when the whole east was taking the war in the spirit of a high crusade and Lafayette’s name was foremost in men’s thoughts.” In order to capture the attention of Congress and get his legislation passed, Dorr associated the park with the current events and prevailing sentiment with the name Lafayette National Park.

January 19, 1929 – Lafayette National Park was renamed Acadia National Park by an act of Congress. In the late 1920s, Dorr had an opportunity to add to the park a large, undeveloped tract on the tip of the Schoodic Peninsula, which had been left by Steuben native John G. Moore to his daughters. Both daughters lived in England (one had married a British Lord), and wished to preserve the land but objected to the French name Lafayette. Because Dorr needed a new act of Congress to allow the park to acquire property beyond Mount Desert Island, it was easy enough to incorporate a name change into that legislation. He chose Acadia “because of its old historical associations and descriptive character.” On January 19, 1929, Acadia National Park was given its new name and the way was paved for the park to acquire the Schoodic District.