Maine: An Encyclopedia
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Southwest Harbor

Location Map for Southwest Harbor

Location Map for Southwest Harbor

Year Population
1970 1,657
1980 1,855
1990 1,952
2000 1,966
2010 1,764
Southwest Harbor Population Chart 1910-2010

Population Trend 1910-2010

Geographic Data
N. Latitude 44:15:40
W. Latitude 68:19:05
Maine House District 134
Maine Senate District 7
Congress District 2
Area sq. mi. (total) 22.7
Area sq. mi. (land) 13.5
Population/sqmi (land) 130.7
County: Hancock

Total=land+water; Land=land only
Formerly a school, then Harbor House Community Recreation Center in the main village

Formerly a school, then Harbor House Community Recreation Center in the Village (2001)

[SOUTH-west HAR-bor] is a town in Hancock County, settled in 1761 and incorporated on February 21, 1905 from a portion of Tremont.

Through a Boatshed at Southwest Harbor (2001)

Through a Boatshed at Southwest Harbor (2001)

It lies on the southwest entrance to Somes Sound, thus the name, diagonally across from Northeast Harbor, a village in the town of Mount Desert.

Southwest Harbor has been both a fishing and summer resort community from its earliest days as a town. The Moorings Inn claims a heritage that extends “Sometime before 1784 [when] Andrew Tucker established himself on this lot. Of the fifteen families located near Southwest Harbor, ten lived very near the little cove beside The Moorings. This natural protection from the sea was then. as now, a fine place for ships as well as people to ‘moor.'”

According to Southwest Harbor’s Draft Comprehensive Plan of 2010,

Early settlement of the land was by fishermen and lumbermen and originally this Town of Mt. Desert included several off shore islands. In 1796 Eden (now Bar Harbor) was formed. The Town of Mansel (later called Tremont) was incorporated in 1848. The Town of Southwest Harbor further divided itself from Tremont in 1905 over a dispute about whether to build a new school.

Because Southwest Harbor was an exporter of lumber and fish, boatbuilding grew to be an important part of the economy, though today most of the boats built are for recreation and pleasure. In its time, Southwest Harbor has had a lobster cannery and more recently a sardine cannery, though both have long since closed.

Southwest Harbor was “the first destination on the Island for summer visitors in the years after the Civil War, and since then has had a double personality. Before the war it was a long established fishing, trading, ship building, lumbering and agricultural village. It then became the seasonal home for a considerable population of upper middle class and affluent summer residents.”*

Maine Route 102 begins at entrance to Mount Desert Island and leads directly south to the main village of Southwest Harbor. Here the Wendell Gilley Museum celebrates the life and work of Gilley, a pioneer of decorative bird carving.

South of the harbor, the small villages of Manset and Seawall face the entrance to Somes Sound and the Cranberry Isles.

*Southwest Harbor Historic Resources Inventory, Deborah Thompson, Ph.D. Architectural Historian, 1999.

Form of Government: Town Meeting-Select Board-Manager.

Additional resources

Cole, John N. Claremont Hotel, Southwest Harbor, Maine: A Landmark’s Narrative History. Southwest Harbor, ME. Claremont Hotel. c1994. [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections; Maine State Library]

Historical Records Survey (Maine). Inventory of the Town and City Archives of Maine: no. 5 Hancock County: the towns of . . . Southwest Harbor. Portland, Me. Historical Records Survey. 1938. [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections; Bangor Public Library; Maine State Library]

“History of The Moorings Inn.” at http://www.mooringsinn.com/pages/history.html. Accessed May 4, 2006.

Parker, Jesse L. Recollections of Southwest Harbor, Maine: 1885-1894. Southwest Harbor, Me. Southwest Harbor Historical Society. c2010. [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections; Maine State Library]

Shettleworth, Earle. Mount Desert Island: Somesville, Southwest Harbor, and Northeast Harbor. Charleston, SC. Arcadia. c2001.

Thornton, Nellie C. Traditions and Records of Southwest Harbor and Somesville, Mount Desert Island, Maine. Auburn, Me. Merrill & Webber company. 1938. [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections; Bangor Public Library; Maine State Library]

Town of Southwest Harbor. Draft Comprehensive Plan 2010. http://www.southwestharbor.org/compplan.html (accessed March 29, 2012)

National Register of Historic Places – Listings

Claremont Hotel, Claremont Road

Fernald Point Prehistoric Site, Address Restricted, Southwest Harbor

Raventhorp, Greening Island, Southwest Harbor

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This entry was last modified: December 12, 2014 03:45 AM

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