of National Historic Landmark Designation
Vicinity of East Sullivan, Hancock County, Maine
Byrd planning for Operation Deep Freeze in 1955.
From 1937, the Wickyup estate served
as the summer home of Admiral Richard E. Byrd and his family.
Byrd, a pioneer aviator and polar explorer, planned three of
his Antarctic expeditions at Wickyup. He also wrote his last
book, Alone, here and drafted what became the Antarctic
Treaty of 1959.
Byrd was a pioneer in the development
of long-range, transoceanic, and high altitude flying and was
the first to fly over both the North and South Poles. In his
Antarctic expeditions, he explored or directed the exploration
of more previously unseen lands than any other individual in
the twentieth century. Byrd envisioned Antarctica as a land
that "God had set aside as man's future - an inexhaustible
reservoir of natural resources."
Byrd was born at Winchester, Virginia
on October 25, 1888; he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy
in 1912 but retired for physical disability in 1916. He qualified
for the Navy flying school in 1917 and pioneered in the development
of aviation during World War I. Following his second retirement
in 1924, Byrd organized his own polar expedition and on May
9, 1926, he and his copilot Floyd Bennett were the first to
fly over the North Pole.
During the first of his expeditions to
the Antarctic, Byrd and three colleagues made the first flight
over the South Pole on November 29, 1929. Byrd was promoted
in the Navy, and became a rear admiral on the retired list on
December 21, 1929. Byrd's plans for further exploration of the
Antarctic were combined with US government research efforts
and he became commander of the United States Antarctic Service.
He returned to the Antarctic in 1933 and spent two years refining
and extending geographical and meteorological knowledge. In
addition to exploration and scientific investigations, this
expedition included a dramatic personal challenge for Byrd.
He spent the five-month polar winter in the interior of Antarctica,
alone in a tiny shack at Bolling advance base. Byrd was almost
overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning and had to be rescued
by other members of the expedition. While Byrd saw this as a
personal failure, he recalled his solitary ordeal as a transcendent
"And here I was,
near the axis of the world, in the darkness where the stars
make a circle in the sky. At that moment the conviction came
to me that the harmony and rhythm were too perfect to be a symbol
of blind chance or an accidental offshoot of the cosmic process;
and I knew that a Beneficent Intelligence pervaded the whole.
It was a feeling that transcended reason; that went to the heart
of a man's despair and found it groundless."
Byrd headed three government-sponsored
expeditions to the Antarctic, the first during 1939-1940, the
second (Operation Highjump) in 1946, and the third (Operation
Deep Freeze I) in 1955. His role during the last two was more
titular than operational, although he did manage for brief periods
to participate in the explorations. He died on March 11, 1957
and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The Wickyup estate was originally developed
by the Eagle Mountain Lake Club in the late 1920s. The members
were Florida millionaires who wished to vacation in Maine during
the summer. The main structure was completed in 1929. Admiral
Byrd and his wife first visited the estate in 1933 as guests
of a friend. As a result of the Depression and the insolvency
of some of the club members, the property became available for
purchase a few years later and Byrd secured a mortgage for it.
The Byrds spent their first full summer at Wickyup in 1937 and
returned each summer thereafter.
of Wickyup in 1970, showing one of the cobble chimneys and
the log construction.
National Historic Landmark photographs.
Wickyup was a place where Byrd could
escape the social obligations and public attention that kept
him busy in Boston, leaving him time to think, plan, and write.
According to his son, Byrd did most of the planning for the
1939, 1946, and 1955 expeditions at the Maine home and held
many of his briefing sessions there.
for its chimneys, Wickyup was a complete loss after the 1984
Photograph by Reid Albee, courtesy of the Ellsworth American.
Designated a National Historic Landmark
on August 29, 1970, Wickyup was destroyed by fire in July 1984;
only the four chimneys of the main house remained standing.
Estate outbuildings remained after the fire, but these were
peripheral structures and not the essential feature of the Landmark
designation. Accordingly, given the complete destruction of
the main house, the designation was withdrawn on March 5, 1986,
and the property was removed from the National Register of Historic