Congress Approves An Act To Establish The Lafayette National Park

Congress approved An Act to Establish the Lafayette National Park at Mt. Desert Island on the coast of Maine on February 26, 1919.

The park, expanded and renamed Acadia National Park in 1929, was the first national park east of the Mississippi.

Claimed for a time by both France and England, Mt. Desert Island was the site of the first French mission in America, established by Jesuits in 1613. French explorer Samuel Champlain had visited the island in 1604, 16 years before the Pilgrims established a settlement at Plymouth. The British secured their claim to the island with their victory over the French at Quebec in 1759.

In the fall of 1604, Samuel de Champlain observed a high-notched island composed of seven or eight mountains rising to bare-rock summits from slopes of birch, fir, and pine. In spite of many changes over nearly 400 years, the area remains essentially the same.

The park was created by President Woodrow Wilson, as Sieur de Monts National Monument on July 8, 1916, administered by the National Park Service. On February 26, 1919, it became a national park, with the name Lafayette National Park in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, an influential French supporter of the American Revolution. The park's name was changed to Acadia National Park on January 19, 1929. From 1915 to 1933, the wealthy philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. financed, designed, and directed the construction of an extensive network of carriage trails throughout the park. The network encompassed over 50 miles (80 km) of gravel carriage trails, 17 granite bridges, and two gate lodges, almost all of which are still maintained and in use today. Cut granite stones placed along the edges of the carriage roads act as guard rails of sort and are locally known as "coping stones" to help you cope with the steep edges. They are also fondly called "Rockefeller's teeth".

The mountain summits are all bare and rocky…I name it Isles des Monts Desert. ”

— Journal of Samuel Champlain, September 5, 1604.