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Eagle Island State Historic Site

Eagle Island State Historic Site

P.O. Box 161
S. Harpswell, ME 04079
(207) 624-6080
Operation Dates: June 15 - Labor Day

About 3 miles off the coast of Harpswell.

WELCOME to Eagle Island State Historic Site

Nestled a few miles off the coast of Maine, Eagle Island State Historic Site receives about 6,000 visitors each season who tour the summer home of North Pole Explorer Admiral Robert Peary. Purchased in 1881 for $200, the island provides a perfect perch for Peary's summer home that overlooks Casco Bay and surrounding islands.

Maine - Eagle Island State Historic SitePanoramic views of ocean scenery, squawking seagulls, and fragrant flowers offer guests a unique opportunity to live a day in the life of the famous 1900s explorer. 

The island is void of any mechanical devices and from the moment visitors arrive, one gets the sense that Admiral Peary and his wife, Josephine could be sitting atop the library's roof watching people explore corners of their island getaway. Josephine cultivated beautiful gardens that featured foxgloves among other colorful flowers. Bureau of Parks and Lands staff tend those same gardens today.

While in the area, make it a point to also visit the Peary-McMillan Arctic Museum At Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Admrial Peary was a graduate of Bowdoin. 

The island is equipped with a pier which makes visitation possible throughout the summer for picnickers, nature enthusiasts, and history buffs. The Peary family home is open for touring. A hiking trail also provides an opportunity to explore the island. Contact the Bureau of Parks and Lands for information concerning boats for hire that provide transportation to the island.

Island Life

In Peary's eyes, the rocky bluff was the prow of a great ship heading northeasterly, and he placed his house as the pilot house of the ship would have been located. 

The original house rests directly on the bare ledge and comprises the front part of the present building with the big front porch and two small back porches. Hundreds of guests wander through the rooms, retracing Peary's quest for the North Pole.

Until 1911, the physical characteristics of the island and life on it changed very little. The caretaker gathered and cut wood from driftwood and fallen trees during the winters, to supply the fireplace, cook stoves, and heating stoves used in early spring and late fall. The family came as early as they could and stayed, sometimes, into late October.

North Pole Peary Discovers the North Pole

On September 6, 1909, on a lovely autumn day, two motor boats were seen coming from South Harpswell toward Eagle Island. The first tied up to the mooring and a man rushed up to the house waving a telegram that was from the Associate Press stating Peary had reached the North Pole. 

Apparently, Mrs. Peary was not excited because she had received too many false alarms. When a second telegram arrived, this time from Admiral Peary himself, Mrs. Peary believed the incredible news.

Peary Returns to Eagle Island

After his triumph on April 6, 1909, it took Peary until 1911 to show the world by incontrovertible evidence that he was the first and only one to reach the North Pole. Congress, to express the thanks of the nation, authorized on March 11, 1911, that Civil Engineer Robert E. Peary U.S.N. be placed on the retired list of the Navy with the rank of Rear Admiral.

Now Admiral Peary could relax and enjoy himself by fixing up Eagle Island as he dreamed about for so many years. Masons, carpenters, plumbers and others worked to raise the house onto concrete piers, build a new ell for a larger dining room and raise the roof with dormer windows to make five bedrooms upstairs.

Today, thanks to Maine motorists who purchase conservation loon license plates, desperately-needed repairs to the roof and surrounding infrastructure are complete.

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