Warren Island State Park is a public recreation area occupying 1,000 acres (400ha) on the eastern side of Penobscot Bay in the town of Searsport, Knox County, Maine. The state park offers camping facilities and trails for hiking, biking, fishing, and cross-country skiing. It is managed by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Warren Island was formed when a glacial lobe passed south during the Wisconsin glaciation, leaving an outwash plain that plugged the gap between Little Jack’s Point to the west and Short Sands to the east.
The island has been privately owned since at least 1818, when it was purchased from its previous owner by Elijah Pike. In 1840, it was sold to William Paine who later became mayor of Rockwood, a nearby town. After his death, ownership of the island transferred to his son, also named William Paine. At some point prior to 1860, WIlliam Paine built a small house on what would become known as “Pine Meadow”. A path connecting the mainland with Warren Island ran along what appears today to be the property line between the towns of Rockwood and Searsport.
On May 9, 1860, a large portion of this land was sold at auction after failing to pay taxes. Among those present were H. C. B. Latourell of Rockwood, Oramel Whittlesey of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and Treadway of Boston, Massachusetts. The successful bidder was Levi Fuller of Rockwood, whose bid of $500 exceeded by almost double the amount offered by the government. As there was no other bidders, Fuller secured the property at a cost of $750.00, which he paid in cash. He registered the title the same day in his own name alone; however, within two years he transferred the entire parcel, including the rocky shoreline, to Zebulon Pike, father of General Pike.
Pike used the site as a campground and summer residence until his death in 1908. His daughter, Mary Pike Laffoon, then inherited the property. She married Charles Dudley Seymour, nephew of Martha Washington, in 1914. They made their home on the island where they remained for the rest of their lives, building a small cabin near the rock wall in 1927. Their only child, a daughter, died young in 1930. Mr. Cote operated a private inn called Cote House, which hosted many famous guests such as President Dwight D. Eisenhower, President Richard Nixon, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin.
During the summers, Mr. Cote organized parties for the rich and famous, often hosting up to 50,000 people per night. When money began to dwindle, so did attendance at these events. To fill the void left by lost revenue, Mr. Cote started charging admission to the White House functions he had previously held for free. Unhappy with the new policy, former guest Evelyn Lincoln, widow of Ulysses Grant III, sued Mr. Cote for breach of contract. Although she initially won the case, on appeal the Supreme Judicial Court awarded possession of the estate to the state. From this point forward, all profits from the land were required to be invested into the Land Bank Commission, which provided low interest rate loans to facilitate commercial farming. This arrangement continued until 1970, when the remaining parcels of land comprising the estate were sold to raise funds for the debt incurred by the state in purchasing the land in 1936.