Get to know the Bangor Historical Society!
A brief history of the Bangor Historical Society
For 155 years, the Bangor Historical Society has served as the stewards of Bangor’s history and heritage. In its mission to preserve, protect and share the Queen City’s storied past, BHS has developed programs & exhibits to showcase the prestige of Bangor’s bygone days.
A brief history of Bangor
Much of Bangor’s past prominence is related to logging and the lumber industry. By 1860, Bangor was the world’s largest lumber port, with 150 sawmills operating along the river. This boom allowed many to amass vast fortunes. The collective, known as lumber barons, built stately manors all throughout the city.
Sadly, some of these majestic homes were lost in the Great Fire of 1911. The conflagration consumed the city, destroying hundreds of residential and commercial buildings, as well as several houses of worship. Despite the astounding loss of property, amazingly, only two people perished in this disastrous inferno.
Undaunted, the people of Bangor banded together and rebuilt their city. They made it stronger — trading wood for brick & mortar — and safer, by adding greenspace and other fire failsafes. Bangor’s modern-day architectural footprint and landscape emerged from flame and chaos.
Visit the Bangor Historical Society
Located at 159 Union Street in Bangor, the Thomas A. Hill House serves as a historic house museum, dedicated to depicting life in Bangor from the mid-late 1800’s. The house, once known as the Grand Army of the Republic Home, was built in 1835 by famed architect Richard Upjohn, who would later go on to build Trinity Church in New York. Many prominent politicians and businessmen have resided here with their families. Many believe that some former residents may still reside in the house in ethereal and spectral form…
The Hill House is much more than a house museum, it holds the majority of the BHS’ extensive and expansive collection and archives, as well as the organization’s administrative offices. Open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 12 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, the Hill House offers visitors an engaging opportunity to explore Bangor’s history. Guests can enjoy a docent-led tour to enrich their experience, or can enjoy a self-guided tour with newly installed tablet devices. These tablets also enable visitors to delve deeper into the BHS collection by providing access to newly launched online exhibits, which features over 11,000 (and counting) digital images from our collection.
Note: Summer Hours, M-F 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 12 – 4 p.m., start July 1 and run through September
Walking and Guided Tours of Bangor, Maine
Our walking tours are a fantastic firsthand way to learn about Bangor’s history. Tours are offered June-October and cover a variety of topics. Our most popular summer tours are the Mt. Hope Cemetery Walking Tour and the Devil’s Half Acre Tour:
Mt. Hope offers guided insight into the nation’s second oldest garden cemetery, which serves as a sprawling, serene backdrop to learn about the famous and infamous interned there.
The Devil’s Half Acre tour is led by notorious Bangor madam, Fan Lovejoy, who takes her guests through the debaucherous district where women, whiskey and wildness ruled during the Queen City’s heydey. Given the mature nature of the subject matter described in this tour, we recommend parental discretion with younger guests.
In October, our tours take a more sinister tone, as we embrace the spirit of the Halloween season. Our Ghostly Bangor tour is the most popular tour offered by the BHS. Tour guides lead guests through the city streets where several residents, and some visitors, met an untimely or violent demise. We also put a spooky spin on our traditional Mt. Hope Cemetery Tour with Mt. Hope After Dark. These tours, led by lanterns and flashlights, take guests through the cemetery at night, allowing them to explore Mt. Hope in a whole new moonlight…
The 2019 Summer Walking Tour Season currently offers: Mt. Hope Cemetery, Devil’s Half Acre, Fire of 1911, Best of Bangor & Soldiers At Rest, which visits the gravesites of Bangor’s Civil War heroes.
We also offer private tour options of all our tours, which can be found at: https://www.bangorhistoricalsociety.org/guided-historic-tours-2019/
Become a member of the Bangor Historical Society!
We love our members and could not do any of this without their support. We celebrate them each month from April to October with a monthly member reception. At these “Wine Nights,” members are invited to enjoy complimentary beverages and snacks as they converse with other members. Every month, we feature different artifacts from our collection at these events. Our memberships start at only $25. Members enjoy discounts, special events and more.
The BHS relies heavily on volunteer support. We are always looking for people to lead house tours, do research, scan images and so much more. Limited staffing and lack of any public funding makes our need for volunteer assistance essential.
Follow the Bangor Historical Society!
You can follow us on FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter at @bangorhistoricalsociety. Our walking tours are listed on our FB page and on our website, www.bangorhistoricalsociety.org, where you can also become a member and learn so much more about our great organization.
Special thanks to Executive Director of the Bangor Historical Society, Mike Melochick, for his assistance with this post.