200: A STATE’S ODYSSEY Get ahead of the crowds—make a Maine journey to uncover the past part of your plans this year. J ust 200 years ago, Maine belonged to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but was itching to be treated like an independent state of its own. The opportunity presented itself when Missouri also lobbied to become a state. As happens withmany sibling rivalries, the parent country, wanting to keep the peace, agreed to grant state- hood to both. And the rest, as they say, is history. A couple of centuries later, onMarch 15, 2019, Maine is celebrating the start of its 200th year, with theMaine Bicentennial to be officially recognized in 2020. The formation of Greater Portland predates statehood by more than a century. Maine’s maritime value was quickly noticed, with Portland Harbor boasting one of the world’s most advantageous seaports. When the British came calling to destroy colonial seaports, Portland was burned to the ground, an outrage called out in the Declaration of Independence. A cannonball from that attack is embedded in the chandelier of the First Parish Church on Commercial Street; the Tate House, in historic Stroudwater, is the only remaining home from that era open to the public. Following the Revolution, one of President GeorgeWashington’s early acts was approving construction of Portland Head Light in 1787. Twenty years later, the Portland Observatory, a maritime signal tower designed to let ship owners knowwhen their merchant vessels were approaching, rose even higher atopMunjoy Hill. WhenMaine was freed fromMassachusetts’ control in 1820, the state capital was seated in Portland’s Monument Square for the first 12 years, until Augusta was selected as the new capital. The 19th-century VictoriaMansion, built just before the Civil War, is spectacular, showcasing the architecture and opulence of the time. The Great Fire on July 4, 1866 started with a post-war July Fourth celebration, which—once again—destroyed most of Portland. Swiftly rebuilding from the ashes, the city adapted the combustible—but ultimately indestructible—Phoenix as Portland’s icon. Over the following decades, Portland has become an arts, culture, and culinary destination. The Bicentennial party has started! Don’t wait another century to help us blow out the candles.
Portland has one of the longest operating Farmers’ Markets in the country, still convening in its original location in Monument Square (the former site of Portland City Hall, shown here).
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