Like its lobster and blueberries, Maine has no shortage of history. But you should expect nothing less of a state with the first incorporated city in America. We may not have been one of the original 13, but Maine still holds a ton of history. While you can take the easy road and read about it on the internet, we recommend hitting the road to check out a few of the historical landmarks that are waiting for you here in Maine.
1. Kennebec Arsenal, Augusta
Perhaps now best known as a home for the criminally insane, the Kennebec Arsenal was originally built in 1838 during border disputes with New Brunswick. In 1842, the border location was set, which made the arsenal less important. It was used to manufacture weapons for the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War, but soon after it was deemed too remote to be of actual use. It was closed as an arsenal in 1901.
2. Bowdoin Schooner, Castine
Built in 1921 for Arctic exploration, the tall ship Bowdoin now plays a vital role as the flagship of the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. She is considered one of the strongest wooden vessels every made journeyed above the Arctic Circle 26 times between 1921 and 1954. You can see the vessel in the waters around Castine, as well as in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Greenland.
3. Winslow Homer Studio, Scarborough
The former home of artist Winslow Homer is now owned by the Portland Museum of Art who offers tours seasonally. The home and studio was originally a carriage house, which Homer had an architect alter. One of the alterations was a 100-foot move to create additional privacy from his brother's summer home next door.
The artist often painted from the dramatic balcony in the winter. Another interesting fact about the house involves the restoration process. Homer's family made upgrades to the house, which were undone by the museum in order to ensure it looked as it did when the artist lived there. You can take private tours of the home and studio through arrangements with the museum. This painting depicts West Point at Prout's Neck, near the artist's home.
4. Victoria Mansion, Portland
Also known as the Morse-Libby Mansion, this historic landmark was built in 1860 as a summer house for a hotelier. It has been identified as one of the best, original examples of an Italianate Villa-styled brick and brownstone town house in the United States. The last of the Libby family moved out in 1928, but the home was purchased to be preserved as a museum. It opened in 1941 to serve this purpose.
5. Portland Observatory, Portland
Sitting as a beacon atop Munjoy Hill, Portland Observatory was built in 1807 and is the oldest maritime signal tower in America. You can visit the observatory between Memorial Day and Columbus Day, which we recommend for views as far as Mount Washington on a clear day.
6. Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, New Gloucester
The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village is the only currently operational Shaker Village in America. A visit to the village will allow you to see a variety of Shaker tools and furniture, which are housed in the buildings on the land. Learn more about Shakers and the village
7. Cushnoc Archeological Site, Augusta
Cushnoc was the location of a 17th Century trading post operated by original colonists from the Plymouth Colony. The trading post was built in 1628 and offers the visitor a look into the trading, living, and construction practices in the time of colonial settlement in New England.
8. The Old York Gaol, York
The Old York Jail was once a colonial prison, with elements of the structure dating back to 1720. It was used as a prison until approximately 1879, after which it was used as a schoolhouse, a boarding house and a warehouse. It was made larger after the American Revolution in response to a demand for better debtor's prison conditions. It is now a museum offering tours between May and October.
9. Fort Kent, Fort Kent
Built in 1838, Fort Kent is the only lasting remnant of the Aroostook War, which was a non-violent confrontation with New Brunswick. The Fort was one of a few built by Maine along the banks of the Saint John River. When the need for it passed, it was sold to the state to create a park. You can visit the area between May and October.
10. Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Brunswick
This is the home where abolitionist writer Harriot Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. The Stowe family only spent two years living here, but Harriet called them the "happiest and healthiest" of her life. Just a few days ago, it was added to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom by the National Park Service.
The conversations that took place inside were an important impetus to the writing of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Bowdoin College also recently announced the opening of "Harriet’s Writing Room," which honors the time period and the novel. This structure was also home to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who lived there when he was a student. For more about the recent designation, click
11. Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Portland
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's childhood home is the oldest (still standing) structure on the Portland peninsula. It was built by Lonfellow's grandfather, Peleg Wadsworth, in 1786. The last family member lived in the house until 1901 and, upon her death, ensured that the home be given to the Maine Historical Society. You can visit the home from May to October. The weekend preceding Halloween includes a ghost tour.
What do you think are the most important landmarks in Maine history? Let us know on our