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Laura Blair

Wood ceiling beams are reminders of Cleftstone’s lavish parties. Twin over-sized upholstered chairs provide a seating area. Large multiple windows look out to the trees, which filter the summer sun.

dot First floor
dot Queen bed
dot Tub/shower
dot Large flat panel TV

Laura Blair

Laura Blair was the longest running summer visitor to Cleftstone Manor, summering here for over 40 years from 1894 until she passed away in 1942. Laura put more energy than anyone into transforming Cleftstone into one of the premier summer mansions of Bar Harbor.

Laura Blair was born Laura Lawson, the daughter of Cincinnati businessman Fenton H. Lawson and his wife, Corrine Moore Lawson. Laura married Frank Ellis of Cincinnati, whom we believe to have been an attorney. Laura and Frank summered in Bar Harbor for several years in the early 1890s, renting a cottage for the season. In 1894 they purchased Cleftstone from John B. How, the brother of real estate developer Charles T. How.

Prior to occupying Cleftstone for their first season, they hired local builder and developer Ed Mears to update and expand Cleftstone. We believe it was at this time that the smaller original cottage was connected to the servants’ cottage, creating what we think of today as the servants’ wing.

From newspaper accounts of the day, it seems clear that Laura played a dominant role in the social life of the couple. Laura hosted weekly dinner parties and luncheons at Cleftstone, often attracting the cream of Bar Harbor society. She also hosted larger events at the Kebo Valley Club, and was a member of the Village Improvement Association’s Amusement Committee. Her husband Frank was largely unmentioned.

In 1903, Frank Ellis borrowed $4,000 and added the North Wing of Cleftstone, including a ballroom on the first floor, master suite on the second floor, and two new bedrooms on the third floor. Modern bathrooms were also added at that time. The mansion was now complete and contained eight bedrooms, three baths, sitting room, dining room, smoking room, and ballroom. The servants’ wing included eight rooms for the staff, a pantry, kitchen, laundry, and trunk storage.

In 1912, Laura divorced Frank and in the following year she married Gist Blair, the most eligible bachelor of Washington, D.C. While her first husband was not a society man, Gist was much more outgoing and joined his wife in Bar Harbor society. They both served on the VIA and hosted many social events. When Cleftstone was too small, they would have their events at Kebo Valley Club or at the Pot and Kettle Club where they were members.

Gist passed away in December of 1939, and Laura continued to summer here each summer until she died in 1942.

The Laura Blair room is part of the former ballroom, added on to the mansion in 1903.

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