Road Trip: Bangor — Queen City’s Kingly influence is just the beginning

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Bangor is approximately 128 miles from Portland and a mere 107 miles from Lewiston. It is the third most populated city in Maine, after Portland and Lewiston, and is approximately 35 square miles of land rich in history. The cultural, business and arts center for all of northern and eastern Maine, it is also known as “The Queen City of the East,” and the words “Queen City” are still used by some businesses and organizations.

When it prospered in the 19th century as a lumber port, it called itself the “Lumber Capital of the World.” During that time the area was home to 300 to 400 sawmills, most of them upriver in towns like Orono, Old Town, Bradley and Milford. It begins to explain why Bangor is home to the giant statue of Paul Bunyan, which was made by Normand Martin in 1959.

Bangor is richer in history than many cities and towns in Maine, much of it related to its location on the Penobscot River, which offered transportation and access for the shipbuilding and lumbering industries in particular, and later the pulp and paper industry. For more information about Bangor’s interesting past go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangor,_Maine. And the city’s website is http://www.bangormaine.gov/. There is far more to this city than there is room for here.

Bangor’s largest Italianate style mansion, the William Arnold House of 1856, is also the most photographed in town, not only for its past but because of its present owner, author Stephen King. The ornate gates and fencing are new additions and reflect King’s writing in that they are adorned with bats, spiders, webs and three-headed dragons. But King is not the only writer connected to Bangor. Henry David Thoreau‘s “The Maine Woods” and John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley” also mention Bangor.

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It was home to Dow Airfield during WWII, which later became Dow Air Force Base and is now Bangor International Airport. There was a POW camp there during WWII where German prisoners were held until they were moved to a larger camp in Houlton.

In October 1937, “public enemy” Al Brady and another member of his “Brady Gang,” Clarence Shaffer, were killed in the bloodiest shootout in Maine’s history. FBI agents ambushed Brady, Shaffer and James Dalhover on Bangor’s Central Street after they had attempted to purchase a Thompson submachine gun from Dakin’s Sporting Goods downtown.

But it also has its softer (and sweeter) side: The earliest recipe for chocolate brownies was known as “Bangor Brownies” and was published in the Boston Globe on April 2, 1905. And the Parks and Recreation Department manages more than 30 parks scattered throughout the city, including the 650-acre Bangor City Forest, which is home to the Orono Bog Boardwalk along with more than five miles of walking trails.

And the city, already home to the state’s only racino gaming facility, is poised to become a serious entertainment center: Bangor residents recently approved a $65 million arena and convention center, promising new entertainment offerings to add to the events already at the Bangor Waterfront arena such as the American Folk Festival and concerts by the likes of Toby Keith, J. Geils and Lady Antebellum.

So whether you are visiting Bangor for a day or longer you will enjoy its rich historic, artistic and cultural offerings. Here are a few places for you to visit. For more information about Bangor go to: http://www.bangorregion.com/.

Maine Discovery Museum

74 Main St.

262-7200

http://www.mainediscoverymuseum.org/

What child wouldn’t want to sit inside a life-sized beaver dam, climb a two-story tree house or visit Charlotte’s Web. A museum that will take you all day to enjoy.

Montes – International Catering & Gourmet Cafe

72 Columbia St.

945-3990

www.montesinternational.com

When you leave the museum walk up two blocks to this great cafe and taste some of its amazing lunch offerings and desserts, like the signature Raspberry Buttercream Torte — just the name makes your mouth water.

Antique Marketplace & Cafe

65 Main St.

941-2111

Stop in here and browse through isles of antiques and rare books. You just might find what you didn’t know you were looking for. And the cafe offers up fine coffee too.

Orono Bog Boardwalk

Bangor City Forest

www.oronobogwalk.org

www.cityforest.bangorinfo.com

About 1.3 miles from the Bangor Mall on Stillwater Avenue, turn onto Tripp Drive and go to the end where you will find the parking lot. Take the East Trail to the Bog Boardwalk. Check the kiosk in the parking area for directions. This is an amazing one-mile walk on the boardwalk through peat bogs ranging in depth from 7 to 27 feet deep.

Thomas Hill Standpipe

Thomas Hill Road

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Hill_Standpipe

This standpipe was built in 1897 and is still in use today. It holds 1.75 million gallons of water and stands 50 feet tall. About twice a year it is open to the public and they can walk up the circular staircase to a veranda that offers a 360-degree view of the area.

Penobscot Theatre Company

Bangor Opera House

131 Main St.

947-6618

http://www.penobscottheatre.org/index.php

Check out the website for current schedules of plays. The Great American Trailer Park Musical opens on June 1. This is not to be missed.

And: Mark your calendars

— The American Folk Festival is Aug. 26, 27, 28

http://www.americanfolkfestival.com/

— Bangor State Fair is July 29-Aug. 7

http://www.bangorstatefair.com/

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