Bangor has several monuments and artifacts that commemorate its place in such historic events as the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
Cannons recovered from the U.S. Navy’s worst defeat, at the hands of the British in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, can be found on the city’s waterfront and downtown. One cannon overlooks the city landing and another is on Kenduskeag Parkway, off State Street.
Although no one knows for sure what caused the explosion aboard the Battleship Maine, which led to the Spanish-American War amid cries of “Remember the Maine,” the ship’s shield and scroll are on display at the Maine Monument at Davenport Park, at the corner of Main and Cedar streets. The Maine was one of the U.S. Navy’s best ships before sinking. A cannon recovered from a Spanish galleon is on display at Kenduskeag Parkway, near a U.S. Revolutionary War cannon.
Respected all-around, Hannibal Hamlin was a natural choice by the newly founded Republican Party to be vice president under Abraham Lincoln. A staunch abolitionist, Hamlin resigned from the Democratic Party and joined the new Republican Party shortly before the U.S. Civil War. As Lincoln’s vice president, Hamlin urged Lincoln early in Lincoln’s presidency to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln delayed the proclamation but asked Hamlin to review a copy before issuing it.
The Republican Party passed over Hamlin for the vice presidency nomination in 1868 because it wanted a southerner for the post to help heal the wounded nation. During his tenure as vice president, Hamlin kept a home at the corner of Hammond and Fifth streets. Unfortunately, the home is not open for tours.
A sculpture depicting Hamlin toward his later years overlooks downtown Bangor from the Kenduskeag Parkway, off State Street.
Other downtown monuments include The River Drivers, a sculpture next to Bangor Public Library on Harlow Street, and the Lady Victory statue, on Norumbega Parkway. The River Drivers depicts three lumber men working to free the key log in a jam. River driving was a dangerous job, sometimes resulting in serious injury and even death. It involved walking along the logs floating in the river and freeing those that became caught. The men who embarked on the occupation needed to be strong, agile and quick. The largest log jams needed dynamite to free them.
Hoisting two lighted torches over her head, the Lady Victory monument in Norumbega Parkway is dedicated in honor of soldiers who fought for the United States in World War I.
Men from Bangor were among the first from Maine to sign up to fight for the Union’s cause in the U.S. Civil War. Mount Hope Cemetery, on State Street, is home to three monuments dedicated to Union soldiers, one of which – Soldiers Monument – may be the oldest Civil War monument in the nation.
About 20 miles south of Bangor spanning the Penobscot River, the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory opened to traffic in late-December 2006, with the observatory opening in May 2007 after only three years of construction. It is the only cable-stay bridge in Maine and the tallest of only four bridges in the world that feature an observatory.
The observatory is 420 feet above the Penobscot River and offers views of 100 miles in all directions on a clear day. It is accessible via the Fort Knox Historic Site in Prospect, with an elevator that whisks visitors to the top in 50 seconds.
The observatory is handicap accessible. Admission is $5, which includes admission to Fort Knox. The observatory is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., while the fort remains open until sunset. At night during the summer, the bridge is illuminated.
On the west bank of the Penobscot River in Prospect, Fort Knox was designed to protect Bangor from British invasion when construction began in 1844. The fort never saw any action, but it was built to guard against a British attack on Bangor during the Aroostook War. The bloodless war centered around a border dispute between the British and American governments over the U.S.-Canada border. Because Americans suffered embarrassing defeats in Bangor during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the Americans thought it best to guard against another. The fort was named in honor of Secretary of War Henry Knox, a Mainer )as is the more famous Fort Knox, in Kentucky).
Informational kiosks describing the fort’s features are throughout the grounds, and visitors are welcome to tour on their own, although guided tours are available. The fort is always a hit with children who enjoy exploring. But bring a flashlight because some sections of the structure are underground and not lit.
Public rest rooms are available, as well as picnic sites and a gift shop. Admission is $3 to the fort or $5 to the fort and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge observatory.
Mount Hope Cemetery is an attraction itself as the nation’s second-oldest garden cemetery. Covering more than 250 acres, the cemetery features immaculately manicured lawns and gardens, ponds and some of the finest monuments anywhere. The cemetery is the final resting place for Hamlin and Public Enemy No. 1 Al Brady, a gangster whom FBI agents gunned down in Central Street in downtown Bangor in October 1937. The cemetery is also home to the Maine Korean War Memorial.
A gift to the city on its 125th anniversary, the Paul Bunyan statue on Main Street never fails to attract snap-shooters passing through the area on vacation. The 31-foot statue is made primarily of fiberglass and features a gleaming Bunyan holding an ax over his shoulder and a peavey at his side. The peavey, by the way, was invented in nearby Stillwater, a section of Old Town, by Joseph Peavey. This revolutionary tool of the trade combined the pick-hand spike with the cant dog. It enabled river drivers to wrestle loose log jams that would form inevitably during the spring log drives down the Penobscot River.
Atop Thomas Hill, the highest point in Bangor, the 118-year-old Thomas Hill Standpipe continues serving the Queen City. The 110-foot white cedar-shingled tower and observatory helps provide water pressure to the downtown area and backup water to fight fires. The tower can be seen from miles away and overlooks left field at Mansfield Stadium. Unfortunately, none of the tower’s four seasonal open houses coincides with the World Series. Still, the structure is worth a look in person.
To learn about these and more attractions, visit the bangorinfo.com Bangor In Focus page.
Museums enable us to get a more intimate glimpse of the past or to learn more about why things are the way they are. Museums in the Greater Bangor area offer glimpses of early American Indian life, the state’s early logging industry and a city’s life from birth to the present.
The Maine Discovery Museum, in downtown Bangor, is the largest children’s museum north of Boston and has received rave reviews. Since opening in February 2001, the museum has enlightened and entertained thousands of children and adults. Parking is not a problem, as the Pickering Square parking garage is only a block away, with the first two hours of parking free.
Transportation enthusiasts will be most interested in the Cole Land Transportation Museum, on Perry Road, near I-395. The museum features antique trucks, snow removal equipment and a model of one of the old Veazie Railroad’s locomotives. The Veazie Railroad, which ran from Milford to downtown Bangor, was one of the first in America. The museum also features a replica covered bridge and a World War II memorial, both accessible outside the building.
The University of Maine’s Hudson Museum features American Indian artifacts from South America. Admission is free. The Page Farm and Home Museum is nearby, also on the UMaine campus. It features farm machinery and household items dated from 1865 to 1940. The museum itself is in a barn that was on the UMaine campus when the university opened in 1868.
In Bradley, between Milford and Eddington on U.S. Route 2 on the east bank of the Penobscot River, the Maine Forest and Logging Museum’s Leonard’s Mills provides visitors with a glimpse of early American life in Maine during the state’s rich logging days. The museum features two Living History Days exhibits each year, but there are no exhibits scheduled during the World Series' stint. Nevertheless, visitors are welcome to walk the outdoor museum's trails.
Back in Bangor, the Hose 5 Fire Museum, on State Street, features antique firefighting equipment. The museum’s home is a former fire station that operated right up until the 1990s.
The University of Maine Museum of Art, on Harlow Street in the heart of downtown Bangor, is the only museum in Maine whose holdings are owned by residents of the Pine Street State. The museum’s collection includes more than 3,500 pieces that are rotated in and out of display. Its collection includes works by Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Winslow Homer, and Andy Wyeth. Admission is free.
For a complete list of museums and phone numbers, check out bangorinfo.com’s museum directory.