Continuing our tour of Maine we parked ourselves at the Portland Elk's Club and took the bike downtown to visit the Maine Historical Society. From the get-go it was a difficult trip. The streets are a labrynth of curves, odd intersections, and one-way streets. The street signs are at a premium and building signs are so discreet as to be unseeable until you are right on top of them. The most visible signs are the ones that say No Parking, 5-min parking, and 15-min. parking. We rode around several blocks with all of the limited available parking spots filled. We ended up in a lot directly behind the museum. Despite signs that said we would be towed, the museum allowed parking there on Saturday. Whew!
One of the many odd intersections. The buildings are large, most are 3 storey, and built to fill available space.
Several monuments are visible all around town, including this one for the Civil War Union soldiers, and one for firefighters.
Once we were parked we were able to join the Museum tour of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's home. The Wadsworth property, which was willed to the Museum by the family, includes the Museum building and adjacent archival library and the house and garden next door. Originally the property was a 1.5 acre farm with livestock, an orchard, and food plots. The family also ran a general store in the small building on the right.
As with all the rooms in a house, this one was a dining room at one time, then a small study. Henry wrote some of his poems at this desk. The guide in this picture is facing a window. Through it we could see the garden which is pictured below.
Original flower garden.
Interesting disgusting fact we learned from the museum.
Just down the street from the Museum is the First Parish Church. The Unitarian Universalist church is the oldest church in the city. It was locked but a nice garden is open on the left.
There are various restaurants downtown, but for lobster we went to Chandler's Wharf on the harbor. There are several places to eat here but we chose this little dinky place called the Portland Lobster Co. Inside you order your food at the counter. You can sit at the street facing counter, one of half-dozen tables inside, a harbor facing counter, or you can wait for picnic-table seating on the wharf under a canopy or umbrella. We opted for the last.
For $20 we got a 1lb lobster, corn, slaw, choice of potato. The small lobsters are soft-shelled and can be peeled without a cracker.
View from the wharf.
After lunch (2:30) we decided to head to the house for the rest of the day.
One of the many typical houses in the city.
We took the Casco Bay road home.It is called the Eastern Promenade. It starts at this park, the former site of Fort Allen, one of many former forts built around the bay. Some of them were never completed, most were left to disappear until someone got the idea that they aught to be preserved. There are several such parks around the Bay. The Promenade runs along the entire east end of Portland.
The Portland Observatory is a historic maritime signal tower at 138 Congress Street in the Munjoy Hill section of Portland, Maine. Built in 1807, it is the only known surviving tower of its type in the United States. Using both a telescope and signal flags, two-way communication between ship and shore was possible several hours before an incoming vessel reached the docks. The tower was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006; it is now managed by a local nonprofit as a museum, and is open to the public.
When we decided to visit here we were under the mistaken assumption that on Sunday am there would be more available parking and that the tour was $5 each. Reality set in immediatly upon our arrival. We drove around the block before we decided to park next to another bike which may or may not have been parked illegally. We crossed the street to find the building closed while the person on duty was guiding a walking tour. The sign out front showed the price to be changed to $10 a person. We took a couple of photos and left.
One of the many large business buildings. This one houses a tv station. Maine always surprises me with its hills and mountains. Portland is built on two hills and a peninsula. The east side sits on the highest hill. It seems almost as hilly as San Francisco. To get to our next stops we drove down and up and across Casco Bay Bridge to South Portland.
After several turnarounds we got headed in the right direction and finally found a small sign to help us on our way to:
Portland Head Light
Portland Head Light is a lighthouse inside Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Construction began in 1787 at the directive of George Washington, and was completed on January 10, 1791. Today, Portland Head Light stands 80 feet above ground and 101 feet above water, its white conical tower being connected with a dwelling. The 200,000-candlepower, DCB 224 airport-style aerobeacon is visible from 24 miles away. The grounds and the keeper's house are owned by the town of Cape Elizabeth, while the beacon and fog signal are owned and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard as a current aid to navigation. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places as Portland Head light (sic) on April 24, 1973, reference number 73000121.
This is another defunct fort that is now a park. Most of the fort structures are gone, but a battery or two and a wall here and there give you an idea of its position and size. The views are great. There are several different walks available, including a cliff scramble.
The lighthouse is not open to visitors, but for $2 you can tour the museum in what was once the keeper's quarters. The Light is the oldest lighthouse in Main.
Changing views make for interesting walking. The park was full of picnicers.
Next on our list was:
Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse
The lighthouse was constructed in 1897 by the government after seven steamship companies stated that many of their vessels ran aground on Spring Point Ledge. Congress initially allocated $20,000 to its construction, although the total cost of the tower ended up being $45,000 due to problems with storms and poor quality cement. The lighthouse featured a fog bell that sounded twice every 12 seconds, and a lantern fitted with a fifth order Fresnel lens first lit by Keeper William A. Lane on May 24, 1897.
Open on Sat. and Sun. in July and August, there were actually several signs that guided us directly here! This was the site of Ft. Williams and is now a small green space. For $5 we got a guided tour of the whole place. After walking a long jetty we climbed iron ladders to access each level.
View of Casco Bay with oil tanker. A view of our next stop is obscured by this ship.
The happy wanderers with a view of one of the 200 islands in the Bay. The nearer large islands house local people who commute to work via ferry.
The "Bug Light"
The lighthouse was first built in 1855, as a wooden structure, but the breakwater was extended and a new lighthouse was constructed at the end of it. The new lighthouse was made of curved cast-iron plates whose seams are disguised by six decorativeCorinthian columns. Its design was inspired by the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, made well known by engravings. The architect was Thomas U. Walter, most noted as the designer of the U.S. Capitol east and west wings and its current dome. Wooden sheds and a six-room house for the lighthouse-keeper were added incrementally as needed. In 1934 Spring Point Ledge Light was erected and the houses around Bug Light were demolished and the lighthouse keeper tended to both lighthouses. During World War II, the breakwater slowly receded, as the New England Shipbuilding Corporation built two shipyards next to the lighthouse. These shipyards produced Liberty Ships for the war effort. Because of the smaller breakwater, there was a lesser need for the lighthouse and subsequently was discontinued in 1943.
We parked at yet another fort into park. We walked out along smooth pavement to this little light and around the outside.
This park and the last one are both adjacent to the Southern Maine Community College campus and is a favorite spot for locals. This intrepid paddleboarder was accompanied by several sailboats on the water.
Landlubbers preferred sunbathing and kite flying. The weather was beautiful for both with hot sun and cool breezes. A fantastically beautiful day.
Our tour of Portsmouth is complete. Next we will explore the small towns the country in this area.
Louise and Duane