An Historic Oasis of Culture

1887The Oasis Club completed construction of their new clubhouse called the Mount Desert Reading Room with a grand celebration on August 3rd, 1887. The avowed purpose of The Oasis Club was to promote “literary and social culture.” The handsome new cedar shingled structure, designed by architect William Ralph Emerson, became the center of social activities during the summers before World War I.

The steel pier was constructed along the shore path in front of the Mount Desert Reading Room to accommodate yachtsman that wanted access to the club from Frenchman Bay.


President William Howard Taft was provided a grand reception at the Mount Desert Reading Room on his 3 day visit to Bar Harbor. For the next 35 years, the club flourished, and members saw their ranks swell by visiting yachtsmen whose gleaming boats lay moored in Frenchman Bay, as well as officers of the U. S. Navy whose ships made annual visits.


Ladies, though allowed admittance by invitation on special occasions, did not enjoy equal status with men at the club until 1921. It was then that a restaurant was opened to the public, and the club, faced with ever-increasing maintenance costs, sought to attract more investors.


Due to World War I and other economic factors during the time, tourism to the area and membership to the club declined to the point that it was no longer feasible for the club to carry the financial burden of the Mount Desert Reading Room and it was sold to the Maine Central Railroad. Over the next 25 years, the building had a number of proprietors and served a variety of tenants.


The Maine Central Railroad purchased the Mount Desert Reading Room and leased it to the Bar Harbor Yacht Club.


A group of hotel owners organized the Shore Club to allow guests at local hotels the use of club facilities.


During World War II, the U.S. Navy leased the building and utilized it as an observation headquarters.

1939 - Navy Staff at Bar Harbor Inn

When the terrible fire of 1947 raged throughout Bar Harbor, the American Red Cross used the building to give assistance to many who were burned out. After the fire, Bar Harbor was left without a single hotel to attract visitors back to the area.


A group of townspeople joined together to develop the Hotel Bar Harbor including the Mount Desert Reading Room with the addition of an initial 40-room wing.


A 20-room motel overlooking the Porcupine Islands was added to the Hotel Bar Harbor.


The property was purchased by David J. Witham, who changed the name to the Bar Harbor Inn.


The Oceanfront Lodge building was constructed adding 64 additional guest rooms to the property.


The 20 room motel that had been relocated when the Oceanfront Lodge was constructed was torn down and replaced with the two story Newport building adding an additional 38 guest rooms to the property.


A complete remodel of the Main Inn wing was completed adding several new guest rooms and the beautiful Bayview windows that are in the rooms today.


The building housing the Bar Harbor Inn Spa was constructed in order to provide guests with convenient luxury spa services.


The historic Mount Desert Reading Room is now home to the Reading Room Restaurant and Oasis Club Lounge. Several décor renovations have taken place over the years however the original structure of the Mount Desert Reading Room has been preserved.
The Main Inn, Oceanfront Lodge & Newport buildings have all been renovated over the years to provide guests with modern décor and amenities in a relaxing and elegant setting.