Augusta, Museum in the Streets
Augusta has a long and fascinating history. Our Museum in the Streets makes a wonderful trek through history…with over 30 signs at significant locations.
Museum in the Streets is a seasonal tour of historic places in Augusta. It features sites along Water, Front, Cony, Willow, and Canal Streets. Signs are installed at the sites in early spring and removed in late fall. The site descriptions on the signs are in both English and French.
Here is a link to the full map and brochure.
An endless quest for riches brought Europeans to the Kennebec River by 1607 and to Augusta by 1625. In 1628, the Plymouth(Massachusetts) Colony constructed Cushnoc Trading Post on the Kennebec riverbank at the head of navigation, and active trade began with the Abenaki people in the area. Wealth gained from Central Maine’s fur-bearing animals helped the Colony pay off debt to their English sponsors. By 1661, Cushnoc was no longer profitable, so the post and patent granting trading rights were sold to four Boston merchants who continued sporadic trade for fourteen years. Continued English encroachment and Abenaki efforts to preserve their way of life led to increased conflict on the Maine frontier – conflict that would last for over 80 years.
2: Gunshots Reverberate on the Kennebec
The Pilgrims’ trading post at Cushnoc had enjoyed a monopoly of fur trade with local Abenaki since 1628. In the spring of 1634 a vessel commanded by John Hocking of Portsmouth challenged that monopoly. Arriving at Cushnoc, Hocking was ordered by John Howland to leave, but Hocking ignored him and continued up river. Howland, John Alden, and nine other men pursued the vessel and again ordered Hocking to leave. After many ill words, Howland sent men to cut Hocking’s anchor cables. After one was cut, Hocking shot and killed Moses Talbot. Hocking in turn was fatally shot, which ended his voyage but not the case. Both Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies investigated the incident. Howland and the Pilgrims were exonerated for defending their Crown-given patent rights.
As part of the strategy to expand and strengthen Massachusetts’ territorial claims along the Kennebec River, a Boston-based land company, the Kennebec Proprietors, built Fort Western in 1754. Commanded by James Howard, the Fort served as a forward supply base for Massachusetts-built Fort Halifax, 17 miles upriver. Fort Western was never attacked, but remained garrisoned until 1767. In 1769, Howard purchased the fort buildings and surrounding land. Howard and sons William and Samuel engaged in various businesses at the fort, including the lucrative lumber trade and mercantile business for the settlement. During the American Revolution, Benedict Arnold and his 1,000 plus force stopped at Fort Western for six days in the fall of 1775 on their ill-fated march to Quebec City.
The afternoon concert at Augusta city hall on May 1, 1897, proved to be both popular and historic. On that day the people ofAugusta heard the most famous band in the land–Sousa’s Band! John Philip Sousa was by the time of his Augusta concertAmerica’s “March King,” having composed some of his most famous marches: The Washington Post March and Semper Fidelis. These and other marches were performed in Augusta’s new city hall, which opened in 1896. This handsome building, designed by noted architect John Spofford, provided spacious offices and an auditorium for the city. Sousa’s band enthralled the Augusta audience with spirited music, and his first encore was a new untitled march. Here, at Augusta’s city hall in 1897,America heard for the first time Stars and Stripes Forever!
There are over thirty more signs on the trail. Enjoy the walk through history.