Mount Desert Island Heritage

The Trenton Bridge

Many people who have never visited Mount Desert Island are surprised to find that despite its name, the island is connected to the mainland by a bridge.

This was not always the case. For many years after the first settlement in 1761, any crossing of the narrows required either fording the channel and mud flats at low tide or using a small privately operated ferry that was established in 1770.

In 1837 the first bridge across the narrows to the mainland township of Trenton was built by the Mount Desert Bridge Corporation. It was a wooden structure on pilings and had a heavy draw span that was quite difficult to raise. Tolls were collected to fund the bridge's operation. The charge was $.10 for horse and rider, $.15 for a team, and
$.25 for a double team.

Almost from the beginning there was considerable dissention over the tolls, and later concern grew over the safety of the bridge. Therefore, in 1917 the Mount Desert Bridge District was formed to acquire the old toll bridge and to build a new one on a different location. The new bridge was designed as a swing span which was thought to be easier and safer for boat traffic to negotiate. It was completed and dedicated in 1920. The construction was of steel reinforced concrete and ultimately cost about $150,000. In 1957 this bridge was reconstructed with an arched fixed span utilizing federal funding since it was determined to be within the boundary of Acadia National Park. Cribbing from the original wooden bridge can still be seen today along the shore just to the east of the present one.

An interesting footnote is that for several years after the development of the automobile, these "horseless carriages" were not allowed on Mount Desert Island. Locals who operated livery stables were against them, and the wealthy summer residents did not want their peace and quiet disturbed by "loud, belching engines". Legislation was passed, first in 1903 prohibiting motor vehicles in Bar Harbor, and later in 1907 prohibiting them on the remainder of the island. Visitors to the grand summer estates had to leave their motorcars at the bridge and were picked up by their hosts in a horsedrawn carriage. The ban existed until 1915 when it was repealed, but severe restrictions on the use of the automobile remained. "Motors" were never allowed on the island's beautiful carriage roads, and they continue to be prohibited today.