A trip to Maine conjures images of gorgeous waterways, lobster rolls thick with mayo, and diverse greenery ranging from stately pine trees to plump blueberry bushes. But, the state is also full of diverse landmarks that mark its history. The National Park Service recognizes 44 National Historic Landmarks in Maine, and some are particularly worth visiting.
Whether you’re a Maine resident exploring your state or a traveler looking for the next worthwhile pitstop, here are eight National Historic Landmarks in Maine that you don’t want to miss.
1. Fort Kent (Fort Kent, ME)
Between May and October, head north to Fort Kent for a taste of history. Fort Kent is the sole remnant of the little-known Artstook War of 1838, a bloodless battle that saw the U.S. and Great Britain squabbling for territory. The war eventually ended in 1842 with the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.
Fort Kent is at the junction of the Fish and Saint John rivers. There’s a large park and a visitors center to check out, as well as the remains of the old fort.
2. Wadsworth-Longfellow House (Portland, ME)
Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow was an acclaimed poet and writer. He lived in Portland, Maine, and his house, originally built in 1785, still stands. Members of the Longfellow family lived at the house for 150 years. Henry’s youngest sister, Anne Longfellow, gave the property to the Maine Historical Society in 1901.
When you’re at the Wadsworth-Longfellow house, you can walk through the rooms where he worked and learn his family history.
3. Harriet Beecher Stowe House (Brunswick, ME)
Harriet Beecher Stowe changed the nation with her abolitionist novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and many people love to see where it happened. Harriet lived at the Harriet Beecher Stowe house for two years between 1850 and 1852, a time she later called the happiest of her life.
Today, the house is one of the most visited National Historic Landmarks in Maine. Bowdoin College owns it.
4. Winslow Homer Studio (Scarborough, ME)
Many famous people have called Maine home. Some, like Winslow Homer, are so influential that their abodes become historic monuments. The Winslow Homer Studio is where Homer worked and lived until 1910.
Homer’s family upgraded the home, but the current owner, the Portland Museum of Art, undid their work. The museum wanted the building to look authentic to Homer’s time.
Tours are available seasonally or through private arrangements.
5. Bowdoin Schooner (Castine, Me)
The Bowdoin schooner is the sole American schooner designed for exploring the Arctic. The ship has traveled above the Arctic Circle 29 times in total and three times since 1988. Its first trip to the Arctic was in 1921, a mere 12 years after Robert Peary’s famous North Pole adventure.
6. Portland Observatory (Portland, ME)
If you love history, go to Portland and soak in the majesty of the Portland Observatory. It’s America’s oldest maritime signal tower and the only one of its type that’s survived.
Built in 1807 atop Munjoy Hill, workers at Portland Observatory used to employ signal flags and telescopes to communicate with incoming ships hours before they reached the dock. The telescope was removed in 1939.
When planning your observatory visit, try to go between Memorial Day and Columbus Day. You’re more likely to get a great view from the top on a bright, rain-free day.
7. Kennebec Arsenal (Augusta, ME)
Kennebec Arsenal is an interesting spot. It’s not the most glamorous site on this list, and there isn’t much to do beyond taking pictures, but its rich and varied history makes it a beacon for those who want to know more about Maine’s past.
The arsenal was constructed in 1838 during the Artstook War border disputes mentioned above. After the war fizzled out, there was little need for the arsenal. American forces tried using it in the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War; however, it wasn’t very convenient because of the remote location. In 1901, the arsenal was sold to the state and turned into a mental health hospital.
The hospital shut down in 2004, and a private developer scooped up the property in 2006 with promises to renovate. The city is now accusing the developer of failing to deliver and is in the process of regaining Kennebec Arsenal.
8. Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village (New Gloucester, ME)
Come to the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village to see the world’s last Shaker community. The Shakers are a religious sect that once had 20 thriving villages in the U.S.
At the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, you can step back in time and experience rural living with simple tools. There are 17 buildings and 1,800 acres to explore.
Summary of the Best National Historic Landmarks in Maine
|Harriet Beecher Stowe House
|Winslow Homer Studio
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock.com
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