Wednesday, March 28, 2012

There's More to Discover in Bangor, Maine

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012
Construction cranes dwarf
Bangor's Paul Bunyan statue.
Seems people have been discovering Bangor, Maine ever since the Portuguese mariner, Estavan Gomez, a captain in Magellan’s round-the-world fleet, sailed the La Anunciada up the Penobscot River in search of the legendary Northwest Passage to the Orient in 1525 under commission of King Charles V of Spain. French explorer Samuel de Champlain was also documented to discover the area in 1604. However, the city wasn’t officially incorporated until 1791 at which time it was named after an Irish Hymn, “Bangor”, by a pastor from Boston named Seth Noble. A healthy fishing and fur trade drew the earliest settlers to the area. Then Maine’s vast forests brought wealth beyond compare to the region making Bangor the lumber capital of the world and one of the busiest ports on the East Coast by the 1850s. Shipbuilding and shipping commerce thrived until the twentieth century when pulp and paper industries took their place. Since then, Bangor’s central location has grown into a social and economic center for the state and offers the region a wide selection of retail and service businesses, education and employment opportunities.

Recent development of Bangor’s waterfront along the Penobscot River has not only enhanced its beauty, its brought entertainment and cultural growth to the city in the form of the an annual Folk Festival, Waterfront Concerts, Hollywood Casino and Raceway, plus revitalization of it’s historic Opera House which houses the Penobscot Theatre Company. There are also a growing number of museums and galleries in the area, including Maine Discovery Children’s Museum and Cole’s Transportation Museum. Its history is very rich, especially in Bass Park, the home of the Bangor State Fair, one of the oldest in the country, and a raceway that’s featured harness racing since 1893.
© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012

Yes, there is definitely a lot to discover in and about Bangor, Maine. That’s the reason why a construction site on Main Street stretches all the way from Dutton Street to the corner of Buck Street and is changing the view of the entrance to historic Bass Park once again. Major changes to this block in my lifetime have included the 1955 opening of the now soon-to-be-demolished, v-roofed Bangor Auditorium. It was constructed behind an older auditorium, which preceded it, and was the second largest event center in New England at that time. The old structure was eventually torn down in 1967 leaving a nice park area behind the location where Bangor’s famous Paul Bunyan statue came to reside in 1959. The 31-foot, fiberglass and metal woodsman, which Bangor claims as its mythical son, was a gift to the city on its 125th anniversary and has a time capsule enclosed in its pedestal that's slated to be opened in 2084. Do not think I'll live to see that, but I have witnessed Paul, the statue, in an oversized Shriner fez to promote a convention and a bandanna for a Willie Nelson concert in July 1986 (which I have fond behind-the-scenes memories of ). The Paul Bunyan statue has even been part of the Stephen King novel, It, and, I dare say, is possibly photographed more than Stephen King or his Bangor Italianate style mansion with its surrounding unique, but fitting, bat and spider motif wrought-iron fencing.

In recent years, Hollywood Slots, newly renamed Hollywood Casino, has taken up residence across from the Bass Park entrance, where older hotels and businesses once stood, and from its parking garage you can easily view construction of the brand new Bangor Event Center, which will replace the oddly shaped, v-roofed auditorium that stands like a shadow behind it. This new structure is reclaiming space where the original auditorium once stood and is scheduled to open in July 2013.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012
As I mentioned earlier, I have fond memories of the Bangor Auditorium. It’s where I first saw a circus, interviewed Ted Nugent without any film in my camera, listened to a Willie Nelson concert through a headset with his lighting director, and attended a grandson’s high school graduation. Now, I’m getting itchy to see what exciting memories this new arena might bring to the city of Bangor, and of course, me.

Click these links if you are interested in progress on the new Bangor Event Center, or visiting Bangor, Maine.

Photographs and "Nosing Around Maine" Blog Posts © 2012 Gail J. VanWart
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Low's Bridge

Nosing Around Maine - Low's Bridge
Low's Bridge spans 182 years of history on the Piscataquis River.
Ice chunks flowed under it on March 22, 2012.
Photos by Gail J. VanWart

Maine’s Historic Wooden Covered Bridges; Nine Left, Guilford Claims One of Them

Guilford claims to be the Chickadee and Lilac Capital of Maine and is a town known for its efforts to promote its natural resources to create green economic opportunities, beautification and recreation. The town has been hosting a River Festival for more than half a decade and the community prides itself for the development of the Guilford Memorial River Walk that provides a place for community members and visitors to experience Bald Eagles, Osprey, Blue Heron and other natural wonders along the banks of the Piscataquis River.

Nosing Around Maine - Marker at Low's BridgeAs you travel through Guilford along Route 15 it is the Piscataquis River and a wooden covered bridge, which suddenly pops into view, that captures your attention. The Maine Department of Transportation has provided a picnic area and turnout so you can stop and appreciate the amazing structure and learn about its historic significance to the area. There is something about its presence that makes you hope it will remain long into the future, and, looking at its history, I get the feeling others have had that same hope over the past 182 years. Nosing Around Maine - Low's Bridge, Guilford, ME

In 1830, the original covered bridge was built at this location, adjacent to land once owned by an early Guilford settler named Robert Low, to provide an easy commerce route between the towns of Guilford and Sangerville, The Piscataquis River, which it spans, took the original structure down in a flood in 1832. It was rebuilt and again destroyed by floodwaters in1857. In that same year, it was reconstructed by Isaac Wharff, who hauled granite by oxen team from Guilford Mountain (over seven miles away) and Leonard Knowlton who used mathematical calculations and a patented Long-truss design to develop a sturdier bridge. The third bridge lasted for 130 years, but the river still proved to be stronger when it once again washed the bridge away in a flood on April 1, 1987. The bridge now standing in its place is a replica in appearance, but even studier to meet today’s building standards. It was designed and constructed off site then placed on the original stone-masonry abutments which were raised about three feet in hopes to avoid possible flood damage in the future. Only time will tell if it was worth the effort. Let’s hope it was.

At one time, more than 120 covered bridges graced waterways throughout the state of Maine, today, there are only nine left standing. In 1985 the Maine Department of Transportation was given the authority to maintain and preserve the states historic bridges. This included the remaining wooden covered bridges (Babbs Bridge, Hemlock Bridge, Low’s Bridge, Robyville Bridge, Watson’s Settlement Bridge, Bennett Bridge, Lovejoy Bridge, Porter Parsonsfield Bridge, and Sunday River Bridge), as well as, four other historic bridge structures (Bailey Island Bridge, Grist Mill Bridge, Sewall’s Bridge, and Wire Bridge).

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart
All Rights Reserved

If there is a place in Maine you'd like me and Blae to sniff out for you, just send us an e-mail to with "Nosing Around Maine" in the subject line, cause you can get the-ah from he-ah. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mud Season and Bar-B-Q

Yesterday, my husband and I had an appointment in Greenville, so we loaded, Blae, our faithful Border Collie, into the back seat and headed north on Route 15 towards Moosehead Lake.

Mud season came early to Maine this year. Buds are bulging on tree branches when folks are usually still snowmobiling and ice fishing. An odd weather pattern is breaking records with three days in a row this week reaching into 80° F range. So, it was definitely mud season yesterday, a month or two ahead of schedule as we traveled through the farmland and small towns that melded into each other, as the hills grew taller and the population grew smaller.

26 Greenville Road in Uptown Monson, Maine      Photo by Gail J. VanWart

Along the way, we encountered many quaint destinations that offer experiences one can only run into on this particular Maine route. Up until a few years ago, you might have thought about going to Monson, Maine, with a population of about 700, only if you needed some slate for some reason or another—or was perhaps hiking the Appalachian Trail. Now there’s another reason to go there, its a rustic little eatery called Spring Creek Bar-B-Q, which is, by all means, a rare one-of-a-kind place folks seem to run into by accident the first time, then go out of their way to revisit. From its small town location, right on the main drag near the edge of Lake Hebron, to its colorful ambiance and witty signage, Spring Creek Bar-B-Q is a picture of times gone by that’s alive and well in the here and now. If you are looking for the best barbecue this side of Texas, you’ll want to eat there.

Mike and Kim Witham are the owners and purveyors of fine smoked meats served there. Mike designed his own smokers and custom grilling equipment for the operation that’s one of only a few places to grab a bite within miles. People who have stopped in by chance on their way to the Moosehead Lake region, or followed the White Dots to their door while hiking the Appalachian Trail, have generated a lot of word of mouth promotion that’s gained them detailed customer reviews on and a 4.5 star rating on, plus a fair share of media coverage. An article by billed Spring Creek as “smoky fare as good as BBQ gets”. Dress is casual and the menu is a full compliment of pork, beef, and chicken barbecue you can order in or take out.  Keep in mind though, the ribs aren’t ready till after 4 p.m. but its well worth the wait. They also offer catering services and even put on a big Bar-B-Q Swap Meat that coordinates with Monson’s annual summer celebration. This year the event falls on Saturday, July 12th. Just bring your own pit and enjoy a day of good eats, live music and fun.  You can find more details at

Mud Season Hours                     Photo by Gail J. VanWart
Blae and I highly suggest, when you’re in Maine hankering for something deliciously different and yearning for an off the beaten track adventure, a trip to Monson will be well worth the journey. Spring Creek Bar-B-Q is a place you can surely get your fill of both character and good grill. But, remember, right now it’s mud season. Until it’s officially summer, you better check their hours first, especially if you aren’t within sight of their porch.

Oh, by the way, if you’re looking for summer work, they’re accepting applications.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012
All rights Reserved

Basic and interesting facts about Monson, Maine can be found at

If there is a place in Maine you'd like me and Blae to sniff out for you, just send us an e-mail to with "Nosing Around Maine" in the subject line, cause you can get the-ah from he-ah.