01/13/2010

Cadillac Mountain, Car or Man?

Once you’ve settled into your exquisite Lamoine lodgings, vacation plans for Acadia National Park almost always include a a trip up to the top of Cadillac Mountain to view the stunning panorama. On a clear day mere language fails to describe the breathtaking view of the town of Bar Harbor, Eagle Lake, Somes Sound and the many islands in all directions. The mostly bare rock prevents trees from taking root and obscuring the view, and the paved road makes access a breeze. Question: Is the mountain named after the car, the car after the mountain or both after someone who happened to spend time in Maine and Motown?

The answer is number three.  In fact, Antoine Laumet del La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac even helped found Detroit, Michigan, once known as Fort Ponchartrain.  Born in France in 1658 he departed for Canada (Port Royal, Nova Scotia) at the age of 25.  Throughout his life there is a suggestion of creative morality; he spent time running from the law, invented a title for himself,  and enriched himself by trading alcohol to Native Americans.  People who knew him said he was a nasty man, a liar and an opportunist.  Born Antoine Laumet, the name Cadillac was from a town near his birthplace, and the invention of sieur de Cadillac or sire of Cadillac was either a deliberate attempt to puff himself up in the New World or escape his identity in France.  Despite these moral lapses history shows that he managed to achieve high rank in both the French military and government, punctuated by frequent imprisonments and charges of corruption. He died at the age of 70 near his birthplace in Castelsarrasin, France.

In 1689 Cadillac was given jurisdiction over what is now the Downeast coast of Maine and it was around this time that his invented name was was attached to America’s highest coastal mountain. Cadillac, Michigan, a small town at almost exactly the same latitude (9 miles south) also bears his name, but it was named much later, in 1882.

The nice thing about Acadia National Park is that it can be enjoyed by people of all fitness levels and this includes Cadillac Mountain. Drive up or hike up on one of the two trails to the 1532 foot summit. Our Acadia area lodging, SeaCat’s Rest,  would be visible from the top if only a few trees weren’t in the way.  Here’s what the mountain looks like from our shore:

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