History of Deer Isle and Pilgrim’s Inn
Let’s go back to the beginning of our beautiful inn! Pilgrim’s Inn was built in 1793 by Ignatius Haskell as a private home. It first operated as an inn from 1890 to 1944 when it was known as “The Ark” and was run by Elizabeth Haskell. In 1975, after being vacant for many years, Pilgrim’s Inn was established. Over the past 30 years, the house has undergone renovations, though most original details were kept intact. You’ll see tin ceilings, wide pumpkin pine floors, and eight-foot wide fireplaces in the common and tap rooms.
Deer Isle has a long and rich history that, to our knowledge, begins back in the 1500s when the Penobscot tribe of the Abnaki Indian nation arrived as the isle’s first summer people. Located on Deer Isle from the 1500s through 1700s, the Penobscot Tribe left utensils and mounds of clam shells behind as evidence of their presence.
It was 1604 when Champlain visited the region and is thought to have landed on Deer Isle and 1772 before Mark Haskell and sons built a saw and gristmill on Northwest Harbor. Mark’s grandson, Ignatius Haskell, then built his home at the head of the harbor in 1793. Ignatius was engaged in the coasting trade from 1775 through the mid-1800s, an activity that dominated Deer Isle culture. The village boasted a millinery shop, a tannery, two stables, two sail lofts, a blacksmith shop, a cobbler shop, a customs office, and a post office during this period.
In 1806, the Bolina, Ignatius’ first ship, launched from his boatyard in Northwest Harbor and made its maiden fishing voyage to Labrador. Then, in 1890, Elizabeth Cush Haskell began operating a guesthouse in her ancestor Ignatius’ home, calling it “The Ark.” Summer visitors would arrive by steamer from Rockland, Portland, and Boston to stay for the season.
In 1895, an all-Deer Isle crew was selected during a town meeting at The Ark to sail the Defender in the America’s Cup. In 1899, another all-Deer Isle crew was hired to sail the Columbia in the same race. The crews were referred to as “The Deer Isle Boys” and were quite popular at the time. Both the Defender and the Columbia were victorious. This was the first time in America’s Cup history that an entire sailing team came from one community.
From 1920 until 1940, Deer Isle village continued as a commercial and social center for the northern half of the island. At the time, it featured a grocery store, drugstore, hardware store, printing shop, and gas plant. On summer evenings, residents from miles around would walk to town for an evening of pool, a movie at the theater, ice cream at the soda fountain, or to play basketball at the mill dam or roller skate at the rink. At the end of each night, lanterns could be seen glowing all along the roads as townspeople made their way home.
In 1944, Elizabeth Haskell died and The Ark was left unoccupied, falling into a state of neglect and disrepair. In 1975, The Ark was reestablished as Pilgrim’s Inn by George and Ellie Pavlov and was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It has been operating as a seasonal inn ever since! Pilgrim’s Inn and the Whale’s Rib Tavern is now owned and operated by Nicole Neder and Scott Hall, the sixth owners since the Haskell’s.
Historical information has been graciously passed along over the years from innkeeper to innkeeper, and from Pilgrim’s Inn staff. The library at the inn has a variety of local history books. There is even a cookbook by a previous chef, The Pilgrim’s Inn Cookbook by Terry Foster. For more information, please contact Nicole and Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit The Deer Isle Stonington Historical Society at http://dis-historicalsociety.org/.