History buffs will be happy to learn that Maine is chock-full of places to go. From the state’s maritime heritage to the artists who’ve flocked to its coastline, prominent buildings and heritage sites dot its landscape. Shakers or mansions, abolitionists or poets, here are our favorite historical places to visit.
Congenial relations today mask the U.S. contentious history with Canada, where Maine was often a boiling point for bad blood. Authorities, who feared an outbreak of hostilities, built this ammunitions depot in the early 19th century to stock weapons in case of war. Widely considered to be one of the best examples of a completely intact arsenal, the site is in the hands of a private developer from North Carolina who has made promises (thus undelivered) to revitalize the former munitions depot. Public access today is limited.
This is Kennebec Arsenal, built to serve as a major arsenal to better protect the coastal borders of the US after the war of 1812. It was in use until 1901 and then was sold to the Maine State Hospital and was renamed the Augusta Mental Health Institute. Doors were closed in 2004 and the property was sold to a developer. While AMHI was running, it was reported that over 11,600 patients died there but there are no records of where all of the bodies were buried. There are also a series of tunnels that exists underground. #kennebecarsenal #Augusta #Maine #abandoned #abandonedmaine #abandonedplaces #history #old #creepy #explore #historical #abandoned_excellence #207 #exploremaine
Maine’s history as a shipbuilding state is a function of its location on the sea and the vast timber forests that still cover its rugged, rural landscape. Constructed in Boothbay, this schooner is the only one of its kind (heavier, smaller sails), built for American exploration of the Arctic, where it has traveled to 29 times. Now owned by the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, future sailors take it for a spin as part of the school’s curriculum.
Maine Maritime Academy, 1 Pleasant St, Castine, ME, USA, +1 207 326 4311
Winslow Homer Studio
Much of Maine’s reputation is owed to its myth builders, artists who captured an immemorial aspect of the state and its people and honed it until it became legend. Such was Winslow Homer, one of the state’s most famous painters, whose oil portraits froze stormy seas in their cold, dark froth. Many of those masterpieces originated here, part of the Portland Museum of Art, where visitors can take a guided tour.
Winslow Homer Studio, 5 Winslow Homer Rd, Scarborough, ME, USA, +1 207 775 6148
Pinpointing a particular historic landmark or building notable for its architecture in Portland is hard. But the Victoria Mansion—also known as the Morse-Libby Library—is a solid no-brainer. This landmark example of the Italianate villa style features a four-story tower, overhanging eaves, ornate windows, and an interior thick with wallpaper and dripping with chandeliers. A gorgeous wide staircase greets visitors when they first walk in, and the sub-rooms, antechambers, and bedrooms are mostly authentic to the period, with marble fireplaces and grandfather clocks.
Victoria Mansion, 109 Danforth St, Portland, ME, USA, +1 207 772 4841
Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village
Most Mainers think of the Shakers as excellent woodworkers, whose benches and bookcases are expensive heirlooms passed down from generation to generation. With so few Shakers alive today—there are just two left—many are taking the opportunity to visit one of the only such communities still around today. The Shakers, a religious group similar but separate from the Quakers who fled religious persecution in England in the 1770s, established this community in Maine about a decade later. As they are celibate, members can only join from outside. Today, the village consists of a dozen or more working buildings, which visitors can tour.
Fort Kent State Historic Site
Maine’s history as America’s maritime frontier is replete with instances of bad neighborly relations with Canada. Those hostilities—known as the Aroostook War—saw the creation of forts along the border, and the blockhouse at Fort Kent is the best surviving example. This two-story tower near the confluence of two rivers was a defensive feature with numerous rifle ports for the soldiers stationed inside. Today, the tower is a museum open to visitors in the summer.
Fort Kent State Historic Site, Fort Kent, ME, USA, +1 207 941 4014
Harriet Beecher Stowe House
For two years, Stowe’s family rented this stately home in Brunswick, during which time Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin and changed the U.S. Such a stir about slavery did the book cause before the Civil War that Lincoln called Stowe “the little lady who made this great war.” While living in Brunswick, Stowe harbored John Andrew Jackson, a fugitive slave from South Carolina. Once an inn, today, it is a museum owned by Bowdoin College and houses faculty offices.
Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Brunswick, ME, USA, +1 207 721 5059
While his luminary lights have dimmed, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was the nation’s prominent poet of the day. The author who penned Paul Revere’s Ride, Longfellow called Portland home for most of his life, and his family’s historic home is the oldest structure on the city’s peninsula. A museum today, the house is preserved and features many of the contemporaneous items and decorations of the era.
Wadsworth-Longfellow House, 489 Congress St, Portland, ME, USA, +1 207 774 1822
Tickets now available for Holiday Tours of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House! Explore the friendship between the man who is said to have "invented America" and the man who "invented Christmas” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Charles Dickens. Guests who tour the House this year will learn about the legendary writers, and the enduring effects of A Christmas Carol on our modern understanding of the holiday. FMI & tickets: mainehistory.org/holidays.shtml
You may not know the name, but you are familiar the painting: half-sitting, half-lying on her side, a girl with blond hair stares, her back away from us, across a tawny field into the distance where a Colonial house stands, surrounded by summer. Christina’s World is an iconic painting made by Maine’s most famous artist, Andrew Wyeth. The house in that painting—Olson House—was where Wyeth spent his summers and where he’s buried. Today, the house is a museum and national landmark.
Olson House, 384 Hathorne Point Rd, Cushing, ME, USA, +1 207 354 0102
Cushnoc Archeological Site
Besides timber for sail masts, Maine was a major site of trade along its rivers, where English colonists first settled. This archaeological site rests on the trading post, built in 1628, operated by English colonists from Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts. The site provides a window into that world, after archaeologists found numerous artifacts there in the 1980s, including tobacco pipes, glass beads, ceramics, and pottery.