Otter Creek in a World at War

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Naval station personnel, 1919. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

The story of Bar Harbor in the Roaring Twenties really begins with the Armistice in November of 1918. The first news that the World War had ended came to this country by way of the Otter Creek Naval Station just outside of Bar Harbor.

Otter Creek had been established by MDI summer resident Alessandro Fabbri whose interest in the latest technology involving radio transmissions propelled him into an important role as war in Europe began to involve the United States. Fabbri built a station on Otter Point, an isolated spot unhindered by other radio transmissions, and then offered it to the government under the condition that he be named the commanding officer. The United States Navy had enough trust in Fabbri to grant his request and gave him a lieutenancy.  36.

The naval station is long gone, but today a monument pays tribute to Fabbri at the intersection of Otter Cliff and Park Loop Roads. It reads “In memory of Allesandro Fabbri Lieutenant USNRF. A resident and lover of MDI who commanded the U.S. Naval Radio Station upon its site from its establishment on August 28, 1917 until December 12, 1919. At the end of the world war he was awarded the navy cross. His citation stated that under his direction “the station became the most important and the most efficient station in the world.”

These days visitors from around the globe picnic near the monument or hike along the Ocean Path behind it. They are on vacation, and their thoughts are usually far from the past when the United States and Europe were experiencing their first “world war.”  They live in an age when transatlantic communication means they can enjoy the scenery of Mt. Desert as they send a quick text to a friend in England or have an easy video chat with a family member in Italy.

But nearly a hundred years ago, with the western world in turmoil, the act of communicating important, history-changing information between the United States to Europe in real time rested on the shoulders of Fabbri and a small naval force on a remote point of land in the North Atlantic on an island called Mount Desert. It was at this very spot that the United States received notice of the unconditional surrender by the Germans and learned the war was finally over.

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(For stories about the naval station, the end of World War I and more, see Bar Harbor in Roaring Twenties by Luann Yetter.)

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About Luann Yetter

"Do you remember lying in bed with the covers pulled up over your head, radio playing so no one could see?" (The Ramones) Yes, I do. And I remember the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. And I believed in the magic of rock ‘n roll. Funny thing is, I still do. Somehow I never grew out of my fangirl phase. In recent years I’ve enjoyed writing local history books. But after three successive publications, I took a break. And then I realized that without deadlines or contracts, what I really want to write about is music.
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