Maine: An Encyclopedia
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Eastport

Location Map for Eastport

Location Map for Eastport

Year Population
1970 1,989
1980 1,982
1990 1,965
2000 1,640
2010 1,331
Eastport Population Chart 1800-2010

Population Trend 1800-2010

Geographic Data
N. Latitude 44:55:08
W. Latitude 67:03:43
Maine House District 139
Maine Senate District 6
Congress District 2
Area sq. mi. (total) 12.1
Area sq. mi. (land) 3.7
Population/sqmi (land) 359.7
County: Washington

Total=land+water; Land=land only

Clipper Ships Built Here

  • Grey Feather–1850
  • Crystal Palace–1854

[EAST-port] is a city in Washington County, incorporated as a town on February 24, 1798 from Plantation Number 8 PS. It became a city, the eastern most port (thus the name) in the United States, on March 18, 1893.

While holding its small population for many years, the most recent U.S. Census documents a decline of nearly 18 percent 2000-2010, on top of an over 16 percent loss 1990-2000. The population in 1880 was 4,006. However, Eastport’s downtown was undergoing an aggressive make-over in 2013.

Eastport is located on Moose Island at the end of a peninsular south of the town of Perry following Maine Route 190 off U. S. Route 1. Cobscook Bay and Passamaquoddy Bay surround the city. The Eastport area was the site of a proposed oil refinery, which would have involved the navigation of supertankers in the surrounding waters.  Concerns about oil spills and environmental threats helped defeat the proposal.

Lobster Boat in Tanker Navigation Channel (1973)

Lobster Boat in Tanker Navigation Channel (U.S. EPA, 1973)

Visited by European fishermen and traders in the 1600’s, the area was settled in 1772.

Far from Massachusetts authorities, it was a smuggling center during the Embargo Act period 1807-1809.

Easport was occupied by the British during the War of 1812, from 1814 to 1818. The Webster-Ashburton Treaty settled its boundary with Canada in 1842.

In 1866, relations with Canada were threatened when hundreds of Fenians (Irish nationalists) awaited a shipment of arms, to be landed at Eastport, intended for an invasion of English-ruled Canada.  A U.S. military force was sent to seize the arms and successfully dispersed the group.  A Fenian “circle” had been formed earlier on Vinalhaven.

The three images below are from the Boynton Street Historic District. City Hall is the Old Boynton High School.

Boynton Street Houses near Downtown Eastport (2013)

Boynton Street (2013)

Boynton Street Houses (2013)

Boynton Street Houses (2013)

Eastport City Hall (2013)

Eastport City Hall (2013)

Shed High School (2013)

Shed High School (2013)

Eastport Elementary School (2013)

Eastport Elementary School (2013)

Fort Sullivan was built in 1808 on what is called Fort Hill. It was occupied by the British from 1814 to 1818, then used by the U.S. until 1873.  Most traces of the structures have disappeared since.  Eastport Municipal Airport is on the northern outskirts of the City.

Municipal Airport (2013)

Municipal Airport (2013)

Municipal Airport (2013)

Municipal Airport (2013)

Fort Hill, Site of Fort Sullivan (2013)

Fort Hill Site (2013)

According to the 1886 Gazetteer of Maine,

Catching and curing fish has been and is still the principal industry of the town. There are now thirteen sardine factories in full operation in Eastport, employing about 800 hands. These factories run night and day during the season, and turn out about 5,000 cases per week. . . . The fish-curing houses marking the eastern shore of the town, but numerously clustered along the water’s edge at the village, are a very noticeable feature from the harbor.

Canning Sardines at the Holmes Packing Plant (1973)

Canning Sardines, Holmes Packing Plant (1973)

Once a center of canning fish (the first sardine cannery in the United States opened in 1875), the city continually struggles against its isolated location and declining economic opportunities. The photo at right depicts canning sardines at the Holmes packing plant in Eastport, May, 1973. (U.S. EPA photo, National Archives # NWDNS-412-DA-7839.)

The Canadian island of Campobello, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famed retreat, is visible across Cobscook Bay.

Congressional Medal of Honor

Congressional

Medal of Honor

winner:

Civil War

EDWARD R. BOWMAN

Form of Government: Council-Manager

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Additional resources

Bacon, George F. Calais, Eastport and Vicinity, Their Representative Business Men, and Points of Interest . . . . Newark, N. J.. Glenwood Publishing Company. 1892. [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]

Border Historical Society. “Fort Sullivan Barracks Museum.” http://www.borderhistoricalsociety.com/museum.html (accessed April 7, 2015)

Brown, C. Donald. Eastport: A Maritime History. Eastport, Me. Border History Research & Pub. Center. 1968.

Coakley, Robert W. The Role of Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders, 1789-1878.  DIANE Publishing. 1996.  Esp. p. 291.

Eastport for Pride. Kennebunkport, Me. SALT, Inc. 1983. (Eastport history and sardine industry) [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections; University of Maine, Machias, Merrill Library; Bangor Public Library]

Emery, Roscoe C., 1886-1969. Papers, 1830?-1969 (bulk 1930-1968). (Cataloger Note: . . . a politician, newspaper editor, and real estate and insurance agent in Eastport, Maine. He was the owner and editor of the Eastport Sentinel from 1914-1946 and owner of the Sentinel Real Estate Agency. He served in the Maine State Senate from 1920 to 1924 and was Mayor of Eastport from 1928 to 1932 and 1934 to 1936. He was an active promoter of the Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Development Project and founded the Washington County Chamber of Commerce.) [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]

Holt, John. The Island City: A History of Eastport, Moose Island, Maine. Eastport, Me. Eastport 2000 Committee. c1999. (Lewiston, Me. Penmor Lithographers) [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]

Kilby, William Henry. Eastport and Passamaquoddy: A Collection of Historical and Biographical Sketches. Eastport, Me. E. E. Shead & Co.. 1888.

*Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me.  Additional text and photos at National Register of Historic Places: http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/nrhp/text/xxxxxxxx.PDF and http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/nrhp/photos/xxxxxxxx.PDF

Boynton High School: 02000351.PDF
Boynton Historic District: 84001542.PDF
Central Congregational Church: 78000163.PDF
Eastport Historic District: 82000787.PDF
Fort Sullivan, Moose Island, barracks: 70000081.PDF
Todd House: 80000258.PDF

Varney, George J. A Gazetteer of the State of Maine. 1886. pp. 211-213.

National Register of Historic Places – Listings

Boynton High School

[Former, 78 High Street] During the decade the 1846 school was built, Eastport grew rapidly from 2876 residents in 1840 to 4125 in 1850. Between 1846 and 1917 the Boynton High School served the upper level students. It originally contained one large room on each floor. It was remodeled first in 1875, when the staircase was repositioned and the first floor divided into three separate classrooms and again after waterlines were laid in the town in the late 1880s.

After a new high school opened in 1917, the Boynton School was vacant for several years, then used as a playground, and later as a laundry. The classrooms on the first floor were gutted and the interior features, including doors and radiators were removed and sold. In 1927 the vacant school caught the eye of summer resident George Pearse Ennis of New York City. Over the next ten years it was the summer home of the New York Summer Art School, part of the Grand Central Art School of Manhattan.

After Ennis died in 1937, the building was given to the School Board. For eight years it was used for school extension groups, a nursery school, boy scouts, and as a community meeting hall. After being leased by the V.F.W. between 1946 and 1951, it became home to the new high school’s Industrial Arts program. In 1974 the structure was remodeled for use as the City Hall.* [See photo above.]

Boynton Street Historic District

[13-26 Boynton Street] The three houses comprising this district are the largest and highest style Federal residences in Eastport. They represent the accumulation of wealth in the early 19th century as a result of both fishing and shipping. Jonathan Delesdernier Weston had his hipped roof house built in 1810. He drafted the papers for the United States repossession of Eastport after the British occupation. John James Audubon stayed in this house while waiting for the vessel that took him on his trip to Labrador.

Daniel Kilby, a wealthy ship owner built his house at the corner of Boynton and Kilby Streets in 1820. Gideon Stetson, a blacksmith and land speculator,purchased the land for his house in 1821 and sold it the next day to Ebenezer Starboard with the promise of building a house on the property. It was completed in 1822. In the late 1800s the ell was added.* [See photos of houses in the district above.]

Central Congregational Church, "The Seaman's Church 1828" (2013)

Central Congregational Church, “The Seaman’s Church 1828”

Central Congregational Church

[Middle Street] First Evangelical Congregational Church and Society of Eastport built the 1829 Central Church. The beautifully proportioned Federal style church is today virtually unchanged. The steeple was blown down in the great gale of 1869 and was replaced by one of slightly different form, with the addition of the clock.

Daniel Low, a member of the building committee, became the architect and builder. The imposing Central Church is remarkable in its refinement and sophistication, unexpected in what was then a frontier coastal community.*

Eastport Historic District

[Water Street] The Water Street district reflects the strength of Eastport’s economy during the latter half of the 19th century. Founded at Eastport in 1875, the North American sardine industry had been thriving. The city, a trading center for the lower Passamaquoddy Bay region, primarily based on water transportation. Thus the commercial center was built on the very edge of the sea, where it remains.

Custom House (2013)

Custom House (2013)

The city bounced back from the great fire of October 14, 1886 with the replacement of 26 buildings within the next year. Nineteen of these were designed entirely or in part by a single architect. Two more were very likely designed by him. The Italianate custom house, now the post office, was built in 1891 at the waterfront.

Larger cities have had worse fires but compared to the city’s population, this fire was one of the worst. The entire commercial center and all the commercial wharves were wiped out. Rebuilding was a determined response considering that the same commercial district experienced significant fires in 1839 and 1864.* [See the video above.]

Fort Sullivan, Moose Island, barracks

Fort Hill, Site of Fort Sullivan (2013)

Fort Hill, Site of Fort Sullivan (2013)

[74 Washington Street] In 1808, Major Lemuel Trescott supervised the construction of a garrison known as Fort Sullivan on a hill overlooking the Eastport area. During the War of 1812, the British occupied the fort from July 1814 until June 30, 1818 . It was used as a military facility until 1873.

The powder magazine remains on the original site on an area of less than one acre owned by the Border Historical Society. The Officers Barracks building was removed from inside the Fort Sullivan walls and placed on a foundation on Washington Street. Until 1966 it was used as house known as the “Look Property.” Purchased by the Border Historical Society, it has been restored as a museum and the headquarters of the Society.*

Todd House

[11 Capens Avenue] Probably built by John C. Todd, the earliest recorded owner, this small Cape Cod dwelling is the oldest frame house in Eastport. It is the only structure shown on a 1781 Passamaquoddy Bay chart. The first settlers on Moose Island (Eastport) were fishermen from Newburyport and Portsmouth who came as early as 1772.

Todd House (1979)

Todd House (1979)

On August 11, 1801, the Eastern Lodge of F. A. Masons (easternmost in the United States and first in Washington County) was instituted in this house and meetings continued there until first lodge hall was built in 1887. Among the charter members was Hopley Yeaton, commander of the first U.S. revenue cutter in the area, generally acknowledged as “Father of the Coast Guard.” In 1901 on their 100th anniversary, the Lodge installed an inscribed polished pink granite stone in the foundation of the house. During the British occupation the building housed English officers.

The house is well preserved, with two principal rooms on each side of a small entrance hall. The front staircase was altered in 1801 to permit privacy for the upstairs Lodge meeting room. A large cooking fireplace is in the kitchen and the ell contains a separate bake-oven.* [Ruth McInnis photo]

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