History of BHHS

After George Dorr, "the father of Acadia National Park" passed away in August 1944, the Town of Bar Harbor held a public exhibition celebrating his life and the history of the Park and Bar Harbor. Due to the overwhelming positive response to this exhibition, the Bar Harbor Historical Society was founded in 1946 with the first physical location established in a small room under the stairs in the Jesup Library.

Debbie Dyer joined the organization in 1989 as curator and Executive Director and through her tireless efforts has greatly enhanced its collection and impact in the community. In 1997, BHHS purchased its own building, the St Edward's Convent on Ledgelawn Avenue. In three years, the building mortgage was fully paid off due the generosity of the local community.

Over the past several decades, BHHS has been established as the leading repository of narrative and physical history of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island. BHHS works with other local organizations to provide historical programming and with the seasonal tourist industry to provide a gateway into local history. More recently, BHHS has expanded its reach into the production of historical documentaries focused on important MDI inflection points.

On April 3, 2019, the BHHS Board of Directors finalized the purchase of La Rochelle, a 13,000 square foot Greek Revival brick estate on the National Register of Historic Places. There was an immediate need and an opportunity to preserve an iconic architectural masterpiece that is such an important piece of Bar Harbor's past. The BHHS permanent collection was moved to La Rochelle in the fall of 2019.

La Rochelle Mansion and Museum has been established as a must see for visitors including tourists, students, residents, and as a gathering place for community events. It will also be a repository and research center for historic documents, books, photographs, artwork, furnishings and other important memorabilia from Bar Harbor and MDI's colorful past.