Sproul’s Cafe

03 - sprouls 2Today, 128 Main Street in Bar Harbor is home to the Acadia Country Store which sells Maine themed gifts and foods [1]. During the late nineteenth century, this same location was home to one of the most popular socializing spots, Sproul’s Café. Entered onto the National Register of Historic Places on February 4, 1982 when the location was known as “Ward’s Building”[2], Sproul’s Café holds local significance as a reminder of Bar Harbor’s heyday years as a resort for America’s well-to-do families[3] and of the social and economic growth throughout the country [4] that lead to the “cottage era”.

Though the building on the National Register was built in 1880 to accommodate the restaurant’s popularity [5], Sproul’s Café was operated by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Sproul [6] from 1870 to 1903. It was one of the first restaurants in Bar Harbor and eventually became so well established that it was compared to New York’s high-end restaurants Delmonico’s and Sherry’s [7]. One reason for the restaurant’s fame was its alcohol service (specifically, wine) even though Maine had been a “dry state” since 1851 [8].  In fact, Maine was the first dry state in the country and was considered a model for the alcohol-ban initiative until the national repeal of Prohibition in 1933 [9].

After years of success, Sproul’s Café was sold in 1903 to a local merchant who remodeled it into a department store [10]. That summer, The New York Times included an article detailing the social scene of the early Bar Harbor summer season. In that article, the author discussed the population’s hope for a new socializing venue to take the place of Sproul’s Café as there were only exclusive and single-sex clubs remaining [11].

By Marisa Higgins

 

[1] “The Acadia County Store.” Acadia Shops of Bar Harbor. accessed November 16, 2015. http://www.acadiashops.com/

[2] National Register of Historic Places. Sproul’s Cafe, Bar Harbor, Maine. National Register #82000744.

[3] Ibid; “Bar Harbor Happenings.” The New York Times. June 28, 1903. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9A01E7DE173AE733A2575BC2A9609C946297D6CF.

[4] “Sproul’s Café.” Historic Buildings. accessed November 11, 2015. http://www.historicbuildings.us/sproul-s-cafe-bar-harbor-me; National Register of Historic Places: Multiple Property Documentation Form. Maine Public Libraries, Maine. National Register #64500266.

[5] Register #82000744.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Vandenberg, Lydia and Earle G. Shettleworth. Bar Harbor’s Gilded Century: Opulence to Ashes. Down East Books, 2009; Register #82000744.

[8] Register #82000744; “Era of Reform.” Maine Historical Society. accessed November 12, 2015. https://www.mainehistory.org/rum-riot-reform/1820-1865/content.html.

[9] “Era of Reform”; Bouchard, Kelley. “When Maine went dry.” Portland Press Herald. October 2, 2011. http://www.pressherald.com/2011/10/02/when-maine-went-dry_2011-10-02/.

[10] Register #82000744.

[11] “Bar Harbor Happenings.”

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