Who used this building before? When was it constructed? What other uses has it had over the years?

These and many more questions about the past are raised by property buyers, owners, and anyone interested in the built environment. Newcomers to our area and long-time residents alike often start by asking real estate agents for information. To find answers all may turn to the digital archive—our interactive database in which local museums, libraries, and historical societies upload items from their historical collections.

Recognizing the value of online access to historical resources, four area real estate companies joined together in 2021 and encouraged one another to support our online collections, offered free to the public. The History Trust received generous sponsorships for August, September, October, and November from Swan Agency Real Estate, Carter’s Real Estate, Lynam Agency, and The Knowles Company.

These real estate companies are well-known on Mount Desert Island and in Hancock County for their long histories and deep community involvement. They have been involved in milestones like selling landmark businesses, working to facilitate land conservation, and finding new stewards for the buildings that help shape our sense of place. The agents, brokers, and owners of these companies recognize the importance of local history, and their sponsorships help ensure that area archives, photographs, and materials are accessible to all.

Beyond their interests in making the resources accessible, these companies are part of the very fabric of this place. Combined, they represent more than 350 years of involvement in Hancock County. The oldest of these sponsoring companies, the Lynam Agency, dates back to 1884. Belle Smallidge began renting houses and then selling real estate in 1898, long before her 1903 marriage to Jerome Knowles. Alice and Dwight Carter opened Carter’s Real Estate from their Northeast Harbor home in 1967, while Cary and June Swan started the Swan Agency in 1975, selling real estate and insurance in downtown Bar Harbor.

The Swan Agency and Carter’s Real Estate remain family-owned; both the Lynam Agency and The Knowles Company have been sold out of their original ownership. But all are owned locally, and all recognize the importance of local history, as it illuminates the changes of our communities. These companies realize the benefit the digital archive has for marketing and selling properties with extensive histories–and learning about their own pasts too!

Providing information about properties and the people associated with them is just one of the many ways the digital archive may be used to access real history, history that is anchored by objects, documents, maps, photos, and other genuine material from our past, like those shown above and listed below.

  • 1916 letters that provide insight into Belle Knowles’ interest in the beautification of Maine’s roads, go to item .
  • 1924 letters from the Lynam office relating to the roads in the then-developing Lafayette National Park, go to item .
  • 1948 typescript of guide to Reef Point property, former site of Beatrix Farrand’s Bar Harbor home and a recent Swan Agency listing, go to item .
  • 1950 photograph of Gilman High School basketball team showing a young Dwight Carter, go to item .
  • 1962 photo shows Alice Carter, and other Union Church Guild women, 5 years before she went into business with her husband as a real estate agent, go to item .

We are grateful to our friends and neighbors at Swan Agency Real Estate, Carter’s Real Estate, The Lynam Agency, and The Knowles Company for seeing the value in making local history available to all, and for their support of digital access.

Want to get a picture of how your property changed through the years?

  1. Search the Digital Archive for documents and photos.
  2. Talk to neighbors and previous owners—and their relatives.
  3. Contact local libraries and historical societies.
  4. Check the property deeds in the Hancock County Registry of Deeds.
  5. Research other online archives and databases for photos, census records, marriage and death records, city directories, and insurance maps.

Happy exploring!

~ Header Image: Belle Smallidge Knowles, “Sketch Map of Northeast Harbor,” Northeast Harbor Library, go to item.

Individuals from History Trust member organizations frequently collaborate on sharing items from the Digital Archive and responding to questions about collections stewardship practices.