Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Robert E. Peary's Maine Island Home Becomes National Historic Landmark

View of Eagle Island's beach from inside Peary home
Eagle Island, the Maine island home of famed Arctic explorer, Robert E. Peary, has joined the ranks of more than 2000 National Historic Landmarks nationwide. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King announced the news this week.

Built in 1904, the Peary family’s cottage on Eagle Island in Casco Bay was donated to the State of Maine in 1967 to become a historic property open to the public. The Bureau of Parks and Lands now operates it as a museum. Visitors can tour the house, including the living room pictured here, as well as hike the seventeen-acre island.

Three-sided stone fireplace at Eagle Island
My research on Robert Peary's wife, Josephine (see photo portrait of her) led me to visit the island a couple of times and I highly recommend it as a day excursion.*

When I interviewed Josephine's grandson, Edward Stafford in 2009, he told me, "Every summer [my grandmother Josephine] saw that Eagle Island was open and welcoming to all and watched as her grandchildren grew tanned and healthy in the salt air, the sea and the sun and learned the ways of the winds and the tides and the chill blue bay." 

Josephine Peary (courtesy Maine Women Writers Collection)
 I loved the three-sided fireplace, each side finished with a different kind of stone found on the island. I also loved the stories of a pajama-clad Peary shouting across the harbor in the moonlight to the small island where he housed his beloved husky dogs.

After Robert Peary's wife, Josephine, died in 1955, the Peary family gave the island property to the State of Maine.

One other historic property in Maine, the Frances Perkins Homestead of Newcastle, became a landmark.

*For information about visiting Eagle Island during the summer, see the Friends of Eagle Island site.

Written by cultural anthropologist Patricia Erikson, Heritage in Maine highlights "things to do in Maine" with living connections to Maine history.