From the Archives: Celebrating the holiday season with the art of Charles K. Savage
Charles K. Savage, creator of both the Asticou Azalea and Thuya Gardens, was the owner and manager of the Asticou Inn from his father’s death in 1922 until 1964 when the Inn was sold. During his leadership of the business, Savage poured his creative energy into managing the Inn with his welcoming personality and artistic flair. Among his many innkeeper talents, he kept correspondence throughout the year with many of the hotel guests and thoughtfully created a unique holiday greeting card to send each Christmas.
A few samples of the annual Asticou Inn holiday greetings are held in the Preserve archives and the Savage family’s private collection. Charles Savage created these greeting cards during a period of his life when he was primarily a businessperson, amateur photographer and artist, and well-liked civic leader. He had not yet embarked on the public garden and landscape artistry for which he is now most well-known. Nonetheless, Savage was a self-taught visual artist who had created pencil drawings, watercolors, woodcarvings, calligraphy, and photographs in great supply since his childhood.
The two calendar cards shown here were hand created by Savage with black and white photographs that he took and then developed in a small darkroom in the basement of his home across from the Inn.
The first (above), sent to Inn guests in December 1946, is a multi-layered card with a charming photo of the Inn’s summer dining room waitresses, a hand-tied ribbon, and a small custom-printed 1947 monthly calendar beneath the photo.
The second, sent in 1950, is a simpler design that includes a view of Northeast Harbor that Savage photographed from atop Asticou Hill and over the roof of one of the Asticou Terraces lookouts. This design included a 1951 calendar (with the dates in red when the Inn was open for the season), and space for a handwritten personal greeting from Savage on the blank inside of the folded card.
In later years of his Inn management, Savage commissioned cards that were crafted by other Maine artists. One example is by Stell and Shevis, printmakers and graphic artists from the Mid-Coast. They designed and hand printed a card that depicted the view of the Asticou Inn from Northeast Harbor circa 1955. This contemporary line woodcut print is a depiction of Asticou that features a festive red jacket on the boatman in the foreground. The blank inside was used for Savage’s personal greeting or notes to each recipient.
Savage's holiday cards are just one example of how connected and generous he was with his community. Although these personal greetings are no longer shared, his legacy lives on in the Asticou Azalea Garden and Thuya Garden, for which we are enormously grateful.
Betsy Hewlett is a former employee of the Preserve and now helps to curate our archives collection.