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History of the Preserve

A legacy of conservation and care. 

The Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve has a history shaped over more than a century by insightful and public-spirited people who cherished the landscape design and natural beauty of Mount Desert Island. The idea of a public preserve started percolating as far back as 1912 when Joseph Henry Curtis established a trust to forever protect his beloved property on Asticou Hill (now Thuya Garden) in Northeast Harbor. In the mid-20th century, the Curtis trust accepted Charles K. Savage’s Asticou Azalea Garden and both properties were subsequently conveyed to The Island Foundation in 1999. This foundation, later renamed Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve, had been created twenty years earlier by David and Peggy Rockefeller to support many of their Maine based philanthropies.


Assuming responsibility for the curated Thuya and Asticou Azalea Garden landscapes was the first step that the Garden Preserve took in developing its current mission: to share the beauty of historic lands and gardens on Mount Desert Island. The combined ownership of two garden landscapes steeped in design history also laid the groundwork for the eventual public stewardship of Little Long Pond, its surrounding lands, and the sumptuous Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor, all of these added to the Preserve starting in 2015 through the generosity of David Rockefeller.

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