Bangor () is a city in the U.S. state
and the county seat of Penobscot County
. The city proper has a population of 33,039, making it the state's 3rd-largest settlement, behind Portland
(66,882) and Lewiston
Modern Bangor was established in the mid-19th century with the lumber and shipbuilding industries. Lying on the Penobscot River
, logs could be floated downstream from the Maine North Woods
and processed at the city's water-powered sawmills, then shipped from Bangor's port to the Atlantic Ocean downstream, and from there to any port in the world. Evidence of this is still visible in the lumber baron
s' elaborate Greek Revival
mansions and the 31-foot-high (9.4 m) statue of Paul Bunyan
. Today, Bangor's economy is based on services and retail, healthcare, and education.
Bangor has a port of entry
at Bangor International Airport
, also home to the Bangor Air National Guard Base
. Historically Bangor was an important stopover on the great circle route
air route between the U.S. East Coast and Europe.
Bangor has a humid continental climate
, with cold, snowy winters, and warm summers.
Name and pronunciation
Founded as Condeskeag Plantation, Bangor was incorporated as a New England town
in 1791. The reason for the choice of name is disputed.
Unlike the eponymous Bangor
, County Down
, in Ulster
, the final syllable is pronounced ''gor'', not ''ger''. In 2015, local celebrities and business owners recorded the YouTube video "How to Say Bangor".
The Penobscot people
have inhabited the area around present-day Bangor for at least 11,000 years and still occupy tribal land on the nearby Penobscot Indian Island Reservation
. They practised some agriculture, but less than peoples in southern New England where the climate is milder, and subsisted on what they could hunt and gather. Contact with Europeans was not uncommon during the 1500s because the fur trade
was lucrative and the Penobscot were willing to trade pelts for European goods. The site was visited by Portuguese
explorer Estevão Gomes
in 1524 and by Samuel de Champlain
in 1605. The Jesuit
s established a mission on Penobscot Bay
in 1609, which was then part of the French colony of Acadia
, and the valley remained contested between France and Britain
into the 1750s, making it one of the last regions to become part of New England
In 1769, Jacob Buswell founded a settlement at the site. Then known as Norumbega, by 1772, there were 12 families, along with a sawmill
, store, and school. By 1787, the population was 567. It was known as Sunbury until incorporation as Bangor in 1791.
Wars of Independence, 1812, and Civil War
In 1779, the rebel Penobscot Expedition
fled up the Penobscot River and ten of its ships were scuttled by the British fleet at Bangor. The ships remained there until the late 1950s, when construction of the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge disturbed the site. Six cannons were removed from the riverbed, five of which are on display throughout the region (one was thrown back into the river by area residents angered that the archeological site was destroyed for the bridge's construction).
During the War of 1812 Bangor and Hampden were sacked by the British.
Maine was part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts until 1820 when it voted to secede from Massachusetts and was admitted to the Union as the 23rd state under the Missouri Compromise.
In 1861, a mob ransacked the offices of the Democratic newspaper the ''Bangor Daily Union'', threw the presses and other materials into the street and burned them. Editor Marcellus Emery escaped unharmed and it was only after the war that he resumed publishing.] [Penobscot County towns to receive the Medal of Honor. Bangor's Charles A. Boutelle accepted the surrender of the Confederate fleet after the Battle of Mobile Bay. A Bangor residential street is named for him. The Confederate States Navy captured several Bangor ships during the Civil War.
Bangor was near the lands disputed during the Aroostook War, a boundary dispute with Britain in 1838–39. The passion of the Aroostook War signaled the increasing role lumbering and logging played in the Maine economy, particularly in the state's central and eastern sections. Bangor arose as a lumbering boom-town in the 1830s, and a potential demographic and political rival to Portland. Bangor became for a time the largest lumber port in the world, and the site of furious land speculation that extended up the Penobscot River valley and beyond.
Industrialization: lumbering, shipping, and manufacturing
The Penobscot River drainage basin above Bangor was unattractive to settlement for farming, but well suited to lumbering. Winter snow allowed logs to be dragged from the woods by horse-teams. Carried to the Penobscot or its tributaries, log driving in the snowmelt brought them to waterfall-powered sawmills upriver from Bangor. The sawn lumber was then shipped from the city's docks, Bangor being at the head-of-tide (between the rapids and the ocean) to points anywhere in the world. Shipbuilding was also developed.
Bangor capitalists also owned most of the forests. The main markets for Bangor lumber were the East Coast cities. Much was also shipped to the Caribbean and to California during the Gold Rush, via Cape Horn, before sawmills could be established in the west. Bangorians later helped transplant the Maine culture of lumbering to the Pacific Northwest, and participated directly in the Gold Rush. Bangor, Washington; Bangor, California; and Little Bangor, Nevada, are legacies of this contact. [Richard George Wood, ''A History of Lumbering in Maine'', 1820–61 (Orono: University of Maine Press, 1971)]
By 1860, Bangor was the world's largest lumber port, with 150 sawmills operating along the river. The city shipped over 150 million boardfeet of lumber a year, much of it in Bangor-built and Bangor-owned ships. In the year 1860, 3,300 lumbering ships passed by the docks. [
Many of the lumber barons built elaborate Greek Revival and Victorian houses that still stand in the Broadway Historic District. Bangor has many substantial old churches, and shade trees. The city was so beautiful it was called "The Queen City of the East". The shorter ''Queen City'' appellation is still used by some local clubs, organizations, events and businesses.]
In addition to shipping lumber, 19th-century Bangor was the leading producer of moccasins, shipping over 100,000 pairs a year by the 1880s. Exports also included bricks, leather, and even ice (which was cut and stored in winter, then shipped to Boston, and even China, the West Indies and South America). [
Bangor had certain disadvantages compared to other East Coast ports, including its rival Portland, Maine. Being on a northern river, its port froze during the winter, and it could not take the largest ocean-going ships. The comparative lack of settlement in the forested hinterland also gave it a comparatively small home market.
In 1844 the first ocean-going iron-hulled steamship in the U.S. was named ''The Bangor''. She was built by the Harlan and Hollingsworth firm of Wilmington, Delaware in 1844, and was intended to take passengers between Bangor and Boston. On her second voyage, however, in 1845, she burned to the waterline off Castine. She was rebuilt at Bath, returned briefly to her earlier route, but was soon purchased by the U.S. government for use in the Mexican–American War.
Bangor continued to prosper as the pulp and paper industry replaced lumbering, and railroads replaced shipping.
[David Clayton Smith, ''A History of Lumbering in Maine, 1861–1960'' (Orono: University of Maine Press, 1972)] Local capitalists also invested in a train route to Aroostook County in northern Maine (the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad), opening that area to settlement.
Bangor's Hinkley & Egery Ironworks (later Union Ironworks) was a local center for invention in the 19th and early 20th centuries. A new type of steam engine built there, named the "Endeavor", won a Gold Medal at the New York Crystal Palace Exhibition of the American Institute in 1856. The firm won a diploma for a shingle-making machine the following year. In the 1920s, Union Iron Works engineer Don A. Sargent invented the first automotive snow plow. Sargent patented the device and the firm manufactured it for a national market.
Bangor is located at .
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , of which is land and is water.
A potential advantage that has always eluded exploitation is the city's location between the port city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the rest of Canada (as well as New York). As early as the 1870s, the city promoted a Halifax-to-New York railroad, via Bangor, as the quickest connection between North America and Europe (when combined with steamship service between Britain and Halifax). A European and North American Railway opened through Bangor, with President Ulysses S. Grant officiating at the inauguration, but commerce never lived up to the potential. More recent attempts to capture traffic between Halifax and Montreal by constructing an East–West Highway through Maine have also come to naught. Most overland traffic between the two parts of Canada continues to travel north of Maine rather than across it.
Major fires struck the downtown in 1856, 1869, and 1872, the last resulting in the erection of the Adams-Pickering Block. In the Great Fire of 1911 Bangor lost its high school, post office & custom house, public library, telephone and telegraph companies, banks, two fire stations, nearly a hundred businesses, six churches, and synagogue and 285 private residences over a total of 55 acres (23 ha.) The area was rebuilt, and in the process became a showplace for a diverse range of architectural styles, including the Mansard style, Beaux Arts, Greek Revival and Colonial Revival,
[ and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Great Fire of 1911 Historic District.
The destruction of downtown landmarks such as the old city hall and train station in the late 1960s urban renewal program is now considered to have been a mistake. It ushered in a decline of the city center that was accelerated by the construction of the Bangor Mall in 1978 and subsequent big-box stores on the city's outskirts.
Downtown Bangor began to recover in the 1990s, with bookstores, cafe/restaurants, galleries, and museums filling once-vacant storefronts.