Saturday, September 20, 2014

Lighthouse Quartet

Portland, ME
After our time "down east", we drove back "up west" to Portland, a small city of about 66,000.   The Greater Portland metropolitan area is home to over half a million people, more than one-third of Maine's total population.  The initial settlement in the area was established in 1623 but, just like Roanoke, this settlement disappeared without a trace while its founder was back in England trying to recruit a second wave of immigrants.  A new settlement was established in 1633 and over the next 150 years was burned to the ground by the Wampanoag indians, then by the French and again during the revolution by the Royal Navy.  Finally, it was incinerated once more by a fire started during the city's 4th of July party in 1866.  You would have thought they would have taken the hint by now, but it was the only harbor in Maine that remained reliably ice free in the winter, so they kept re-building it.

Wild (?) Ducks
We actually stayed at the Wild Duck campground just south of Portland in the small town of Scarborough.  At the park entrance is a pond with a flock of maybe 40 or 50 ducks most days.  I'm not sure how "wild" they are.

Maine was an early adopter of prohibition, outlawing the sale or manufacture of alcohol in 1851.  This lead to the Portland Rum Riots of 1855, involving primarily Irish immigrants who felt the law was an assault on their traditional culture (I swear I am not making this up).  Faced with 2000  Irishmen who hadn't had a drink in 4 years, Portland's Mayor Dow panicked and called in the local militia.  One rioter was killed and seven wounded.  When it was learned that Mayor Dow himself had a sizable stash of booze "for medicinal use" things went from bad to worse.  The Maine prohibition law was repealed in 1856.

Antique car show
The day after we arrived we went looking for a dog park.  The internet informed us that Bug Light Park in South Portland would be just the ticket.  It lied.  Although there were dogs off leashes, this was apparently by common custom rather than any attempt at compliance with park rules.  We just figured, when in Rome...  and let Julian run off a little energy.  Unbeknownst to us, there was an antique auto show going on at the park that day.  There were rows of shiny cars representing just about every decade of the last century which I browsed through with my camera in hand while Vicki and Chris walked the dogs.

More shiny cars
Bug Light with dog walkers
At the north end of the park sits the Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, an elegant little building nicknamed the Bug Light due to its diminuitive size.  It was built in 1875 and modeled on an ancient Greek monument, though it was constructed if cast iron plates, not marble.  At the opposite end of the park is a memorial to the WW II liberty ships which represented most of the wartime contribution of the Portland
Liberty ship memorial
shipyard.  The yard had a contract with Britain to build 30 "Ocean" class transport ships in 1941 and when America entered the war, rather than desiging anything new, the navy just told the shipyard "build us some more of those".  So in 4 years 30,000 workers, mostly women, turned out over 290 of the things.  There are now just 2 left.  Most of them did their jobs satisfactorily and were then left to rust.

We spent the next couple of days exploring the beach
Nice beaches
towns between Portland and the New Hampshire border... Biddeford, Kinnebunk Port, Wells Beach, York Town. They all kind of look the same.  The beaches seemed nice but access was limited and parking was by a permit you had to go get downtown, which seemed weird.  There weren't many people braving the water.  By this time of year here it's getting pretty cold.  There are still lots of lighthouses and seafood shacks.

We stopped at Fort McClary State Park at Kittery Point, almost right on the New Hampshire border.  This was one of the young United States' coastal defense forts.  First built in 1808, it was named after local hero Andrew McClary, an officer who fell at
Ft. McClary State Park
the Battle of Bunker Hill.  It protected the harbor at Portsmouth, NH.  What remains there are the old block house and a few of the stone fortifications.  Unlike Fort Knox, this Fort actually saw some action in the War of 1812 and was manned during the Civil War though it did not see any actual Rebs.  It was mostly unmanned thereafter and had largely fallen into disrepair by the start of the 20th century, so the feds gave it to the State of Maine in 1924. Across from the fort, at the mouth of the Harbor are two lighthouses.  The Portsmouth Harbor Light sits on the New Hampshire side while the Whale Back Light sits on a tiny island on the Maine side of the harbor entrance.  Both are still in operation.

Whale Back Light and keeper's house
For  those of you who aren't tired of lighthouses yet, on the way back to our motorhome we stopped by the Nubble Light at Cape Neddick for a few photos.  This is a quite good looking light that sits between York and Wells Beach.  In fact, it is so good looking that it is considered a quintessential example of lighthouseness.  The Voyager spacecraft, which carries photographs of Earth’s most prominent man made structures and natural features in case it finally fall into the hands of intelligent extraterrestrials, includes a photo of the Nubble Light along with images of the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal.  Pretty impressive.

Nubble Light

Bonus Pics

The block house at Ft. McClary

Rifle ports in the old fortifications

Portsmouth Harbor Light

1 comment:

  1. I love lighthouses. Maybe cause I grew up in Montana where there aren't any.