10 Popular and Fantastic Historic Sites in Maine That One Must Visit (2023)
Like its Coastline, Lighthouses, Blueberries, and Lobsters, Maine also has no shortage of historical attractions. No matter where you are, you cannot ever overlook the history of Maine. History is the basis of what life is today and will be tomorrow. Maine first settled along the coast of the Atlantic during the early 17th century. However, to become a full-fledged U.S. State, it waited long until 1820. Before that, it was the Native Americans who lived here for centuries, and that’s where a major part of Maine’s history comes from.
Maine may not be part of the Original 13 colonies, but it still holds a major block of history. From prominent architectural landmarks built in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries to the state’s maritime heritage and other historical landscapes, opportunities for a history buff are truly many in Maine. Since most of the historical landmarks in Maine are under National Park Service, you may also find some National Park Sites in the List below.
10 Popular and Fantastic Historic Sites in Maine That One Must Visit
With that said, let’s begin learning about the Best Historical Landmarks in Maine. Have a look:
1. Saint Croix Island International Historic Site
When talking about the Historic Landmarks in Maine, what better way to begin with an international site? Saint Croix Island is basically a shoreline that preserves and presents French’s disastrous first attempt to colonize North America. It was North America’s earliest European settlement which they called I’Acadie. The historic site is today managed under the National Park Service, and a visit here will introduce you to the story of the interaction between Native American and early French settlers. The island is protected by U.S. and Canada, both given it is in the middle of their boundaries. Though access to the island isn’t allowed to the public, one can take a short interpretative trail and enjoy the scenery. There’s even a visitor center that operates from 9 am to 5 pm. The island is only accessible under strict permission or for archeological research.
2. Fort Kent State Historic Site
Fort Kent State Historic Site is a State Park and a popular historic landmark in Maine. It sits right at the confluence of the Fish and Saint John Rivers and is quite an interesting place to explore. The historic site is home to Fort Kent Blockhouse, the only surviving American fortification from the Aroostook War of 1838 to 1839. The Blockhouse is basically a two-story structure with thick square-hewn cedar logs. This excellent example of early 19th-century military architecture is undoubtedly a delight to learn about. Fort Kent Blockhouse, a defensive of the past today, also operates as a museum that is preserved and presented under the supervision of local Eagle Scouts. It operates for visiting from Memorial Day to Labor Day daily, from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission to the Blockhouse Museum is free though donations are appreciated.
3. Maine Historical Society and the Wadsworth-Longfellow House
A historic landmark in Portland, Maine, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House is Longfellow’s historic family home. This historic house and museum is a three-story structure built with red bricks and is also the oldest standing structure on the Portland peninsula. Located in downtown Portland, Longfellow House has a remarkable influence on the political, literary, and cultural life of the United States and, precisely, New England. A visit to this historic home will introduce you to original household items and artifacts that once belonged to the Wadsworth-Longfellow family. In addition, visitors will observe how furnishing over the 18th and 19th centuries of nearly four generations changed in different attributes.
Alongside the historic home also lies the beautiful 1924 Longfellow Garden. The garden is an astounding work by landscape architect Myron Lamb who was also a part of the Longfellow family farmyard. The garden is free to the public, and it operates from 10 am to 5 pm, Monday to Saturday, from the month of May through October.
4. Portland Observatory
Portland Observatory is the best historic landmark in Maine, and that too for all good reasons. Built back in 1807, the observatory is a survivor of the Golden Age of Sail and today is over 2 centuries old. It holds positions under several prestigious registers, including the National Register of Historic Places (1972), the National Civil Engineering Landmark, and the National Historical Landmark (2006). This oldest maritime signal tower in America is still under operation and open for visitors as well. One can visit the observatory between Columbus Day and Memorial Day, Monday through Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm. A visit inside will introduce you to the fascinating history of America’s last standing maritime signal tower, including several facts that will leave you in surprise. Or by climbing up to its observation deck, visitors can also capture a stunning bird’s-eye view of Portland city, the harbor, and the woodland at a distance. TIP: Wear comfortable shoes, as there are many stairs to climb.
5. Maine State House
When the discussion is about historic landmarks in any American State, you simply can’t overlook its State Houses. The Maine State House is also Maine’s Capitol Building. It is located in Augusta, Maine’s capital city, and is still operational for different political, economic, and other important grounds. The Maine Statehouse was completed back in 1832, and since then, it has had nearly two centuries of successful operations. The building is inspired by the architecture and design of the Massachusetts State House and is built using local granite. On Capitols’s south are the Maine State Library, Maine State Museum, and Maine State Archives, all inside a modern structure. Whereas on its north lies the Executive Mansion, more commonly known as The Blaine House. This New England historic gem is open for public visits Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, all year round. The Maine State Museum even arranges informational group tours if asked in advance.
6. Acadian Village or Maine’s Acadian Culture
Every single time when someone mentions Pine Tree State’s historical sites, the Acadian Village in Maine will always be remembered. Acadians were the first French descendants who came down to America in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Acadia National Park, too, is named so in honor of those settlers. Coming to the Acadia Village, this open-air museum heritage is home to six historic structures, including one modern representation and five authentic 19th-century structures. All the size structures include three houses, one schoolhouse, one blacksmith shop, and a 1976 rough log church which is a modern representation of a typical 18th-century Acadian church. These historic structures are only 1 or 1 and a half stories tall, built using either log construction or wood framing, and have a gabled roof. The buildings are either moved to the Acadian village or built on the site.
Besides the historic structures, the grounds of the Acadian Village also host four modern buildings, along with multiple homes, a shoe shop, a barber shop, a worker’s quarter, and a railroad car house. For exploring the entire site, at least 3 to 4 hours are required.
7. Kennebec Arsenal
There are some unique historical landmarks in Maine, and the Kennebec Arsenal is one fine example of the same. Built back in 1838 during the border disputes with New Brunswick, Kennebec Arsenal is the best surviving example of a 19th-century munitions depot in the United States. On its huge 40 acres of ground stands 8 granite buildings exhibiting the astounding Greek and Gothic revival style architecture. These structures were used for military munitions during the early 1800s. It was further garrisoned until 1901, and later after, it served as a mental health institution until the 1970s. After that, for decades, the Arsenal grounds and structure faced sheer negligence, but it was in the last decades that authorities became attentive to preservation and rehabilitation. Though since the works aren’t yet in much progress, visitors can only see the buildings in their dangerously dilapidated states. Considering the danger, visiting inside them is restricted.
8. Winslow Homer Studio
If you are an art aficionado, the Winslow Homer Studio in Maine is a must-visit attraction for you. The Studio was once home to Winslow Homer, a famous American artist, illustrator, and landscape painter. Winslow Homer lived and painted here from 1884 until the year 1910, when he eventually counted his last breath. Later in 1965, the home and Studio were declared a National Historic Landmark, and today it is acquired by the Portland Museum of Art. Today, enthusiasts can visit the museum, though only under guided tours. The Winslow Homer Studio Tours include visiting the facility from the inside as well as transportation to and from the Studio. The entire session takes nearly 2 and a half hours, and the tour operates regardless of weather conditions. However, since the tour timings can be altered due to various other conditions, make sure you check their website before visiting. The original art masterpieces inside are undoubtedly a delight to watch.
9. Victoria Mansion
A much-loved historic landmark in Portland, Maine, the Victoria Mansion is another destination to add to your itinerary. This National Historic Landmark is a popular example of American residential architecture. Locals knew Victoria Mansion as Morse-Libby House or Morse-Libby Mansion. Located in downtown Portland, this well-preserved Italianate mansion features a four-story tower and excellent interiors with wallpaper dripping with chandeliers, ornate windows, and overhanging eaves. Right as you walk into the mansion, you will see a gorgeous wide staircase leading its way to sub-rooms, antechambers, and bedrooms. More than 90% of the interiors here are the same as the original, whereas the remaining have been refurbished. Victoria Mansion continues operating from May 1st through October 31st, 10 am to 4 pm for the entire week. It also operates holiday season tickets which are available by early November.
10. Cushnoc Archaeological Site
Last but not least on our List is the Cushnoc Archaeological Site located in Augusta, Maine. Just south of Fort Western in Augusta, Cushnoc was the location of a 17th-century trading post. It was originally built back in 1628 and operated as a trading post between the native people and the pilgrims until 1661. Much later, between 1984 and 1987, the Cushnoc Site was excavated, and several archaeological excellences were found. Researchers found Spanish and French Earthware, tobacco pipes, glass beads, utilitarian ceramics, hand-forged nails, and much more. Today a visit to the Cushnoc Archaeological Site acts like a window to the past. Individuals who are keen on history and artifacts must plan a visit here.