In 1931, a college student named Lewis W. Dunton, Jr. drew a map of Mount Desert Island while spending the summer working for his aunt, Florence Dunton, and her partner, Margarita Safford. In this oral history, Andy Cline tells the story of the map and shares photographs of the Duntons, the house they built, and a piece of Manset history.

Oral History:

Oral History Transcription:

 

ES: This is Eloise Schultz and Will Miller interviewing Andy Cline for the History Harvest on June 25th, 2019. Thanks, Andy, for joining us! It’s a pleasure to have you here.

AC: It’s a pleasure to be here, thank you.

ES: I’m wondering if we can start out by talking about what you’ve brought for us today, this map. Could you describe for our listeners: what is it?

AC: Well, it’s a map of Mount Desert Island with some interesting cartoon-like or caricature representations of different things; for example, there’s a witch on a broomstick flying over Witch Hole Pond, and a couple of ladies where the Sisters Islands would be. It has the crest of Sieur de Cadillac, and a number of other interesting things—lobster boats and sailboats around the island… various campgrounds indicated, and mountains; you can see the Bubbles and Cadillac. Most of these are newer names; you don’t see, for instance, Green Mountain—it’s called Cadillac, and so forth. We have a golfer at the Kebo Valley Club. And the J.T. Morse, which was a steamboat that brought people to Mount Desert Island from either Boston or Rockland. That is the way in which the two aunts of the map’s creator arrived here back in the early 1900s, because the roads were so bad that you could scarcely get here by car without having four flat tires along the way, and maybe a broken axle. Roads were really quite bad and so they would come by boat more often than not. 

ES: Maybe that’s a good transition to talking about who made the map, and where it came from?

AC: Sure. The house that I live in, on Shore Rd. in Manset, was built in 1914 by two women: Florence Dunton and Margarita Safford. They had met at Smith College and became lifetime partners. Florence’s nephew, Lewis Dunton Jr., came here for several summers to be their boat boy during his high school years at Philips Exeter Academy, and later on during college years at Harvard. In 1931, there was a particularly rainy summer, and not a lot of boating going on. Lewis had a small bedroom-bathroom cottage next door to the main house, which was his place for the summer—affectionately nicknamed “Chez Lewie.” Because it was so rainy that summer, he spent a lot of time in his quarters. He was very artistically inclined and created this map. After my father-in-law, Dr. Val Jordan, purchased the house where I now live, in the early 60s, he was able to get in touch with the Dunton family, whom he found out had owned the house and originally built it. And he obtained a copy of this map, that Lewis had created.

ES: And you mentioned earlier to us about Lewis and the family crest that he created. It’s interesting because this map is so in the style of older, illustrated, wonderous maps, which might show some of the magic of a place. Can you tell us what you’ve found out about Lewis, and what he was interested in?

AC: I was talking with Lewis’s son, Frank Dunton, who lives in Rockport, Mass. He was telling me that his father’s interest in art was very nautical; his father had been a Navy officer. And he also liked this—I’m not sure exactly what you’d call it—this style of art. He designed a book label for himself, with his name and imagery that fit his life, with crossed anchors and so forth. He also designed a family crest for the Dunton family, just sort of made it up of things that were important to him and his family. I thought that was particularly poignant, because as I understand it, our friend Antoine de la Mothe, who became Sieur de Cadillac, was born a commoner and wanted to be a nobleman, so he created this name for himself and created his own family coat of arms—a stylized version of which now adorns the Cadillac cars that are still made today. 

ES: And you mentioned, too, that you have a copy of the map in your home? And you live in the house now?

AC: The house that I live in now—my wife inherited it from her parents. It is the home that was built by Margarita and Florence in 1914. There are boards that we’ve salvaged from doing renovations that have, handwritten in pencil, [R.M.] Norwood, Southwest Harbor, Maine. And these are cypress boards which probably came to Mount Desert Island by boat from down around Louisiana. They were chosen to build houses like this one because of their resistance to termites and other bugs. It’s fascinating to picture this stack of lumber going on a sailing ship back in the early 1900s, and labeled there: delivery to Southwest Harbor, Maine.

ES: And so you’ve also brought some photos for us to look at today—are those photos of the house?

AC: Yes, there are a couple of photos of the house, and a beautiful photo of the two ladies, Margarita and Florence. Florence grew up in Spencer, Massachusetts, and later lived in Melrose. I don’t know a great deal about her family background. But she did go to Smith. And there, she met Margarita Safford, whose family background is really fascinating. Her father, Anson P.K. Safford, had been the third territorial governor of Arizona, and was the longest-serving governor. He was known as “the little governor” because he was very short in stature, only about 5’4’’ or 5’5’’, and Margarita herself was also quite short. He did a lot of great things while he was the territorial governor; he got the public school system going there, and is well-regarded in the history of what became the State of Arizona. He later came back to Philadelphia and then went to Tarpon Springs, Florida, which was, at the time, little more than a port where Greek sponge divers were making their living, diving for sponges off the west coast of Florida. And he helped to develop Tarpon Springs into a bonafide community and city, and helped attract tourists to come there for vacation from Philadelphia and elsewhere. His family home is now a historic site: the Safford House in Tarpon Springs, Florida. So this guy was pretty busy, Margarita’s father. She herself was—as I understand it—a master carpenter. I have several tools at the house that have her name on them, Safford, which I find fascinating. There’s a hammer, and a pitchfork, and some other things. 

ES: So maybe she—you mentioned that she and Florence built the house?

AC: Yes, and I don’t know how much of the actual building they did themselves. I think it’s very clear that they designed it, because we have a nice picture of the original floorplan. [R.M.] Norwood was the contractor who built the house, but they did participate, or at least Margarita did. So it’s really fascinating.

ES: Do you know if they lived here year-round, or just summered here?

AC: They lived on Beacon Hill in the wintertime, and later moved to Melrose, and came here just in the summer. The house was an uninsulated summer cottage, built in the style of an Arizona or California ranch—a bungalow—so there are strong Arts & Crafts influences in the house, and a great big fireplace and living room. We have pictures of Margarita and Florence sitting on some of the same furniture that is there today, wicker furniture, which is pretty cool.

ES: Can you tell us, too, how these photos came into your possession?

AC: I believe that the photo of their sailboat was obtained—I think it was with the house when my father-in-law bought it. And they were both very skilled sailors, and sailed with the Northeast Harbor Fleet. Some of the other photos that I’ve shared with you came from Lewis’s son, Frank Dunton, who lives in Rockport Mass, and was kind enough to share those photos of his dad, who was the map’s creator. Another thing that I learned from Frank was that living in Southwest Harbor, one might go to Northeast Harbor to go shopping. Well, and again, because in that era the roads were so bad, it made much more sense to go by water. They would go in their motorboat—they had a sailboat and a motorboat—and no doubt Lewis, as their boat boy, would motor them over them to Northeast to go shopping, and then come back.

ES: Can you remind me, in this photo with the sloop, whose house this is and where it might have been taken?

AC: Yes, the sloop is called Bepp and was owned by Margarita and Florence. It’s moored off the Manset shore, and the large building in the background is the Stanley house, which was one of the large hotels that sprung up around the island in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when first the rusticators and then more and more tourists from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia were coming here and staying for extended times.

ES: We’re reaching the end of our interview time, and as a last question, I’m wondering if you could share any of your own memories of the map, something you associate with the photographs?

AC: So, it’s my wife’s father, Dr. Val Jordan, who was the third owner of the house. The ladies were first and then Rev. Dawley and his family owned it briefly, and my father-in-law bought it from the Dawley family. And so Jennie Jordan Cline, my wife, began going to Manset for summers when she was eleven years old. Her family background goes way back. I believe the map came from the Dunton family; also, my father-in-law was a very good friend with Les and Betty King, who owned the Moorings Inn, just down the street. Their daughter, Leslie Lee, and her husband, Chuck Watson, now own the inn. But Val was very close with Les and Betty, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Les and Betty also have copies of this map, because they have given them to a number of people as gifts. We subsequently were able to get a few more copies of the map from Frank Dunton, Lewis’s son, and one of them we donated—or Frank donated—to the Harbor House auction a couple of years ago at Lobsters On The Sound. And it’s—it’s really a fun map to own. We’ve given one or two as gifts, and I know that Les and Betty King gave away a few copies as gifts. So, it’s not a one-of-a-kind, but it’s relatively rare.

ES: It’s a really special map, and we’re excited to get a digital version. The kind of thing where you could just keep looking and seeing more mysteries.

AC: Oh, I should also just mention briefly that Lewis didn’t stop coming here in later years. When he and his wife Mary were married, they honeymooned in Seal Harbor, and would regularly come back in the summer, either driving up or at times sailing up from Boston. They would rent the house two doors down from the house where he had come as a younger man. And he and his family would spend time here on MDI, and continued to do that for most of his life.

ES: Thank you so much, Andy, for sharing that story with us.

AC: My pleasure.