Historic Sites In Maine. More Than Just Parks has 10 incredible must-see sites for you to visit.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I’m going to give you my list of the Top 10 Historic Sites In Maine that you’ll want to see.
To be clear, this list includes national park sites (as in sites managed by the National Park Service) as well as national parks. It also includes sites not managed by the National Park Service. After all, we’re more than just parks!
If you’re planning a trip to the Pine Tree State then one book that I recommend is: Historic Maine Homes: 300 Years of Great Houses by Christopher Glass.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Top 10 Historic Sites In Maine
10. Kennebec Arsenal
The Kennebec Arsenal is a former military facility located in Augusta, Maine. The Arsenal was built in 1827 as a manufacturing and storage facility for the United States Army, it was one of several arsenals built in the United States during the 19th century to store and manufacture weapons and other military equipment.
The Kennebec Arsenal played a key role in the production of weapons and other military equipment during the Civil War and other conflicts. It was used to manufacture and store artillery pieces, muskets, bayonets, and other equipment needed by the Union army. The arsenal also served as a training center for soldiers, where they received instruction in the use of weapons and other military equipment.
After the Civil War, the Kennebec Arsenal continued to be used by the army, but its primary role shifted to the storage of military equipment and supplies. The arsenal remained active until the end of World War II, when it was declared surplus and closed by the army.
In the following years, the buildings of the arsenal were used for different purposes, including as a state mental hospital, and state government offices. Some of the buildings were demolished, but many of the original buildings still stand and are used for different purposes.
The Kennebec Arsenal is a historic site and is open to the public for tours and events, it features exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of the Arsenal and its role in American history. Visitors can also see the original buildings, including the main building, guardhouse, and powder magazine, which have been preserved and restored.
9. Wadsworth-Longfellow House
The Wadsworth-Longfellow House is a historic house located in Portland, Maine. It was the childhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of America’s most famous poets and one of the five Fireside Poets. The house was built in 1785 by Stephen Longfellow, Henry’s grandfather, and it was the family home for over 150 years.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived in the house from his birth in 1807 until he left for college in 1825. He later returned to the house during summers and holidays while he was a professor at Bowdoin College and later while he was a professor at Harvard College. Many of Longfellow’s poems, including “Paul Revere’s Ride” and “The Village Blacksmith,” were written in the house.
The house was also the home of other members of the Longfellow family, including Stephen Longfellow, Henry’s father, and Samuel Longfellow, Henry’s uncle. The house was passed down through the family for several generations, and it remained in the Longfellow family until the death of Henry’s last surviving child, Samuel Longfellow, in 1892.
After the death of Samuel Longfellow, the house was purchased by the Maine Historical Society, which opened it as a museum in 1895. The house was restored to its appearance during the time when Longfellow lived there, and it is now open to the public for tours.
Visitors to the Wadsworth-Longfellow House can see the rooms where Longfellow lived and worked, including the study where he wrote many of his famous poems. The house also features exhibits and artifacts related to Longfellow’s life and work, as well as the history of the Longfellow family and the history of Portland, Maine.
8. Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village
The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village is a historic Shaker village located in New Gloucester, Maine. The village was established in 1783 by a group of Shakers, a religious sect that was known for their celibacy, communal living, and religious fervor. The village was the last active Shaker community in the United States, and it is now a National Historic Landmark.
The Shakers at Sabbathday Lake built a number of buildings, including a meetinghouse, a dwelling house, a barn, and several other outbuildings. They also cleared land for farming and established a number of businesses, including a sawmill, a gristmill, and a blacksmith shop. The village was self-sufficient and the members were known for their hard work, craftsmanship, and innovations.
The Shakers at Sabbathday Lake were known for their religious practices, which included celibacy, communal living, and the use of music, dance, and other forms of expression in their worship. The community’s religious practices and way of life attracted many converts, and the village grew to a peak of 300 members by 1836.
As the years went by, the number of converts decreased and the village faced financial difficulties, the community managed to survive and it remained active until the death of the last remaining member, Sister Rachael, in 1992.
After Sister Rachael’s death, the village was acquired by the Sabbathday Lake Corporation, a non-profit organization that works to preserve the village and its history.
The village is now open to the public for tours, and visitors can see the original Shaker buildings and learn about the history and culture of the Shakers.
7. Winslow Homer Studio
The Winslow Homer Studio is a historic building located in Prouts Neck, Maine. It was the studio and home of the American painter Winslow Homer, who lived and worked there from 1884 until his death in 1910.
The studio was built in 1884 and designed by the artist himself, with the help of local builder John Calvin Stevens. It is a simple, one-story wooden structure with a large skylight, which provided natural light for Homer’s painting.
The studio was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966 and is now operated as a museum by the Portland Museum of Art.
It is open to the public for tours and contains many of Homer’s paintings, as well as his personal effects and some of his studio equipment.
6. Harriet Beecher Stowe House
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House is a historic house located in Hartford, Connecticut. It was the home of the American author Harriet Beecher Stowe, best known for her novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which was a major catalyst for the abolition of slavery in the United States.
Stowe and her family lived in the house from 1873 until her death in 1896. The house was built in 1871 and was designed by noted architect George Keller. It is a Victorian-style home with a mix of Gothic and Italianate elements.
After Stowe’s death, the house was used as a boarding house and later as a factory. It was in danger of being demolished in the early 20th century, but a group of citizens formed the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center to purchase and restore the house as a museum.
The house was opened to the public in 1968 and has since been operated as a museum by the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center.
It is open for tours and contains many of the original furnishings, as well as artifacts from Stowe’s life and work. The house also serves as a cultural center, hosting events and educational programs related to Stowe’s life and legacy.
Top 5 Historic Sites In Maine
5. Maine Acadian Culture
The Acadians were the descendants of the French who settled in America during the 17th and 18th centuries. Acadia National Park was named to honor their heritage and contributions to the region.
Acadia was located in what is now Eastern Canada’s Maritime provinces, as well as parts of Quebec, present-day Maine to the Kennebec River, and on the West coast of Newfoundland.
Though it is officially part of the National Park System, none of the sites are operated by the National Park Service. Instead they are run by the Maine Acadian Heritage Council (a local non-profit) with support from the National Park Service.
The 17 buildings overlooking the St. John River in the Acadian Village retain the cultural heritage of the Acadians who settled in the St. John Valley during the mid-eighteenth century.
Places To Be Explored
Among the places to be explored are the following:
- Acadian Landing & Tante Blanche Museum
- Acadian Village
- Allagash Wilderness Waterway
- B & A Caboose and Green Water Tank
- B & A Railroad Turntable
- Fort Kent Blockhouse
- Fort Kent Railroad Station
- Historic Governor Brann Schoolhouse
With so many interesting places, I recommend that you research the ones of particular interest to you before you depart on your adventure.
Developing an itinerary or a plan of attack will give you the opportunity to get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to exploring.
4. St. Croix National Historic Site
Saint Croix Island International Historic Site commemorates the 1604 site of the first French attempt to colonize the territory they called l’Acadie. It is one of the earliest European settlements in North America.
Among those who wintered on the island during 1604-1605 was the famed explorer Samuel de Champlain.
Champlain was a French colonist, navigator, cartographer, draftsman, soldier, explorer, geographer, ethnologist, diplomat, and chronicler best known for founding Quebec.
The noted author and historian David Hackett Fischer wrote a wonderful biography of Champlain’s explorations titled Champlain’s Dream.
Congress authorized the establishment of Saint Croix Island National Monument in 1949, which became effective on June 30, 1968, and designated it as an international historic site on September 25, 1984.
About This Site
This small National Park Service site tells the story of the interaction between early French Settlers and Native Americans in what would mark the beginning of permanent European settlement in North America.
St. Croix Island itself is in the middle of the US – Canada boundary and is jointly protected by both countries, there is no public access allowed on the island due to dangerous currents and for the protection of the island.
The small National Park Service site is located in Calais, Maine and overlooks the island with a short interpretive trail and and places to sit and enjoy the scenery.
Things To Do at Saint Croix Island International Historic Site
It’s a very small site and frankly there isn’t a whole lot to do, but it’s well worth checking out if you’re in the area.
- Walk the Interpretive Trail – The historic site has a very nice paved 0.2 mile interpretive trail with signs and statues telling the story of the area.
- Bird Watch – The area is great for bird watchers and provides opportunities to see bald eagles, ospreys, and a number of other interesting birds.
- Have a Picnic – Sites like this are the perfect quiet spot to enjoy a picnic lunch and take in the scenery.
Check Out Nearby St. Stephen & St. Andrews Too
In nearby St. Stephen and St. Andrews, you will find a variety of museums and historic sites, recreational opportunities, restaurants, shops, and hotel accommodations.
It’s definitely worth a visit!
CHECK OUT: ALL 63 NATIONAL PARKS RANKED BY EXPERTS
3. Appalachian Trail National Scenic Trail
The Appalachian Trail is a long-distance hiking trail that runs along the eastern part of the United States, stretching from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail passes through 14 states, including Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
The idea of creating a long-distance trail through the Appalachian Mountains was first proposed in the early 1920s by Benton MacKaye, a regional planner and conservationist. In 1921, MacKaye published an article in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects, outlining his vision for a trail that would connect cities and towns along the eastern seaboard, providing an escape from urban life for people to experience nature.
The Trail Has Been Continuously Maintained By Various Organizations
In 1925, the Appalachian Trail Conference was formed to oversee the development of the trail. The first section of the trail was completed in New York in 1923, and by 1937, the trail was completed from Georgia to Maine. The trail was officially dedicated on August 14, 1937.
During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped to build and maintain the trail. The trail has been continuously maintained by various organizations and volunteers ever since. Today, the trail is managed by the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, a private non-profit organization that oversees the trail’s maintenance and protection.
Each year, thousands of people hike the entire trail, a journey that typically takes 5-7 months, known as “thru-hike” or “end-to-end hike”. Many others hike shorter sections of the trail. The trail is also open to horseback riders and cross-country skiers.
2. Roosevelt Campobello International Park
In the runner-up spot at #2 is Roosevelt Campobello International Park.
As historian William E. Leuchtenburg, professor emeritus of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill concluded, Franklin D. Roosevelt may have done more during the twelve years he served as president to change American society and politics than any of his predecessors in the White House, save Abraham Lincoln.
Roosevelt led the nation through the twin crises of the Great Depression and World War Two. In the process, he transformed the role of the federal government. The programs unleashed by FDR’s New Deal sought to insure that the economic, social, and political benefits of American capitalism were distributed more equally among America’s large and diverse populace.
FDR also transformed the American presidency. Under his leadership, the President’s duties grew to encompass not only those of the chief executive—as implementer of policy—but also chief legislator—as drafter of policy. He greatly increased both the powers and the responsibilities of the office.
Now there are more biographies about one of America’s greatest presidents then you might realize, but three of my favorites (and yes I’ve read all of these too!) are: Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life by Robert Dallek, Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by H. W. Brands, and Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny by Frank Freidel.
The Site Is Not Actually In Maine, But It’s Close Enough
While technically not in Maine as it lies on an island in New Brunswick, this unique National Park Service Unit is a must-see for American history buffs.
Roosevelt Campobello International Park lies just across the U.S. – Canada border and is jointly administered by the National Park Service and Parks Canada.
The park preserves Franklin Roosevelt’s beloved summer home on Campobello Island where he spent a great deal of his time prior to his polio diagnosis enjoying the immense beauty that surrounded him.
Things To Do & See At Roosevelt Campobello International Park
The Visitor Center
A trip to Campobello should begin with a visit to the visitor center. There you will find exhibits about FDR. There’s also a wonderful short film: “Outer Island/Beloved Island,” produced by the Roosevelt Campobello International Commission.
A small bookstore features a limited selection of memorabilia.
Visitors can tour the home and see artifacts from Roosevelt’s time at Campobello. Guides are stationed throughout the Roosevelt Cottage to answer questions.
Rooms that are on display include the following: (1) President Roosevelt’s office from his 1933 visit and his bedroom, (2) Mrs. Roosevelt’s writing room, (3) living room, dining room, and kitchen, (4) laundry and Nursery and (5) family bedrooms.
Other Things To See At Campobello
There are 8.4 miles of driving roads located in the park’s 2,800 acres, and eight miles of walking trails. You can wander the trails individually for a short hike or combine them for longer hikes. You can see bogs, forests, shoreline, beaches, and more.
Getting to Roosevelt Campobello International Park
The park is located just across the border where Lubec, Maine meets New Brunswick, Canada and is connected by the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Bridge. All typical border crossing requirements are in place and you’ll need a passport if you’re not Canadian.
Entrance Fees – Roosevelt Campobello International Park
There are no entrance fees to access Roosevelt Campobello International Park!
1. Acadia National Park
Our #1 Historic Site in Maine is Acadia National Park.
Along the rocky shores of Maine’s coast you’ll find this easternmost national park.
Once the exclusive domain of the gilded age elite, a few civic-minded residents decided to make Acadia’s beauty available to all Americans by donating the land to the national park service – and boy am I glad they did.
With rounded mountains, shimmering lakes (called ponds here) , rugged coastline, and forests dotted with old stone roads and trails this New England national treasure is the crown jewel of Maine’s outdoor destinations.
Acadia Was Created Entirely By Private Land Donations
Acadia National Park was the first national park to be created east of the Mississippi River.
One of the most interesting Acadia National Park Facts is this: It’s the only national park in the Northeast.
Acadia is a true coastal wonder. Nestled into the far-flung, rocky coast of Maine, this national park is home to majestic forests, tranquil ponds, rounded mountains and wild coastline.
A little history lesson is in order. In 1604, French explorers Sieur de Monts and Samuel de Champlain arrived. They called it “Acadia,” meaning “heaven on earth.” These two explorers claimed much of Maine for their native France. Of course, there’s an old saying, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.“ As we know, Maine did not become a part of the French Empire.
Much later, however, the area did become a summer retreat for America’s elite. The area comprising Acadia National Park was given back to the people by conservation-minded locals led by George Dorr.
Check Out Our Stunning Film
Acadia is the culmination of several weeks spent exploring Acadia National Park during peak fall color. This film is, in part, a celebration of Acadia’s upcoming centennial. It is dedicated to George Dorr.
Sculpted by Glaciers and landscaped by beavers, Acadia is full of wonderfully unique features. Rounded mountains, tranquil ponds, rocky coastline, & some of the most beautiful trails in the world comprise this marvelous wonder.
This film was shot entirely in 4K.
Tips For Avoiding The Crowds
Crowds can be a real issue here, particularly in the summer, so be sure plan accordingly. Parking can be very limited and the park roads can be very congested.
Also campgrounds and hotels are very hard to come by during the busy summer months.
Fall offers a slight reprieve from the summer crowds, but not much as it’s no secret that Acadia is a world-class leaf-peeping destination.
Best Things to Do at Acadia National Park
- Go Leaf Peeping – Acadia National Park is a world-class leaf-peeping destination that draws people from all over the world to see its vivid autumn colors. The best time to go is usually in early October.
- Take in the Sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain – (Reservations are required) You can be among the first in the United States to greet the sun from atop Cadillac Mountain, oh and enjoy breathtaking views!
- Drive the park loop road – Acadia is a great park to relax and go for a scenic drive. The roads wind along spectacular ocean views and through beaufitul forest with countless overlooks and opportunities to pull off and take in the views.
- Lobstah! – No trip to Acadia, or Maine, is complete without some lobstah! You’ll know you’re close when you see the boiling cauldrons outside!
To Learn More About This Amazing Park Check Out: 11 AMAZING Facts About Acadia National Park
List Of Historic Sites In Maine
- Acadia National Park
- Roosevelt Campobello International Park
- Appalachian Trail National Scenic Trail
- St. Croix National Historic Site
- Maine Acadian Culture
- Harriet Beecher Stowe House
- Winslow Homer Studio
- Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village
- Wadsworth-Longfellow House
- Kennebec Arsenal
About The People Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and proud dad of these two guys hopelessly obsessed with the national parks.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested joining the adventure, sign up below!