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Camden, Maine

HistoryEdit Penobscot Abenaki Indians called the area Megunticook, meaning "great swells of the sea", a reference to the silhouette of the Camden Hills (more visibly seen on a bright night). Part of the Waldo Patent, it remained wilderness until after the French and Indian War. It was first settled about 1771–1772 by James Richards, who built a home at the mouth of the Megunticook River. Others soon followed, some making modest attempts to farm the broken and often mountainous terrain. The first home in the area was the Conway House, aCape Cod style home built in 1770. In 1962, it was purchased and renovated into a history museum.[4] When Castine was held by the British in 1779, Camden became a rendezvous point and encampment for the Americans, who were commanded by Major George Ulmer. During a raid, the British burned a sawmill. On February 17, 1791, the Massachusetts General Courtincorporated Megunticook Plantation as Camden, named after Charles Pratt, 1st Earl Camden, a member of the British Parliament and proponent of civil liberties. During theWar of 1812, a battery was built atop Mount Battie near the village. It had both a 12- and18-pounder gun, but no gunner qualified to operate them. Nevertheless, the fort's appearance of readiness kept the British at bay.[5] When peace returned, Camden grew rapidly. The Megunticook River provided excellentwater power sites for mills. In addition to sawmills and gristmills, by 1858 the town hadcarriage factories, sash and blind factories and blacksmith shops. There were sixshipyards, launching ten to twelve vessels annually. By 1886, the town also made foundryproducts, railroad cars, woolens and paper mill feltings, anchors, wedges, plugs andtreenails, planking, powder kegs, excelsior, mattresses, powder, tinware, oakum, wool rools, boots and shoes, leather, flour and meal, corn brooms and barrels. Camden was second only to nearby Rockland in the lucrative manufacture of lime, excavated at quarriesand processed in kilns before being shipped to various ports around the United States until 1891, when Rockport was set off as a separate town. As the 19th century came to an end, Camden was very much a shipbuilding town with the H.M. Bean Yard launching the largest four-masted schooner and the first six-master ever built-the George W. Wells.[6] In the 1880s, sportsmen and "rusticators," began to discover the natural beauty of Camden during the summer and autumn, becoming seasonal residents. Sarah Orne Jewett’s stories of nostalgia for the sea, Camden’s unique scenery, fine old homes of sea captains, and the paintings of Fitz Hugh Lane, Frederick Church, and Childe Hassam evoked a romantic vision of Maine and induced many to come to stay at the Bayview House Hotel, Ocean House, and Mrs. Hosmer’s Boarding House. In 1880, Edwin Dillingham built the first purpose-built summer cottages in Camden on Dillingham Point. Thereafter, the summer colony at Camden quickly grew to include some of the wealthiest, most prominent families in the country. These new summer residents from Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Washington, D.C. and even Chicago, built large, rambling Shingle Style "cottages" along High Street, Bay View Street and on Beauchamp Point to rival those in Bar Harbor. The summer people arrived on the Boston Boats or on the Maine Central Railroad at Rockland. Local residents, who had formerly gone to sea to earn a living, found jobs as caretakers, gardeners, and carpenters to the rich and powerful. Camden in 1906 Curtis Island Light c. 1920 High Street in 1913 Camden Hills in 1906 In November 1892, a fire fed by a strong easterly wind-burned the business district to the ground. Immediately, Camden businessmen drew together to make the tremendous investment to build 12 large brick buildings, including the Camden Opera House and, controversially, the Masonic Temple (now the Lord Camden Inn). The Great Fire, as it became known, did not, however, discourage increasing numbers of affluent summer people from making Camden their summer enclave. Indeed, in 1897 a road was built to the top of Mt. Battie, one of the two mountains rising majestically above the town, and an inn was erected at the summit. In 1898, a group of wealthy summer residents from Philadelphia established the Megunticook Golf Club on Beauchamp Point. And in 1901, the famous Whitehall Inn opened on High Street in an old mansion built by a sea captain, catering to a well-to-do clientele. Around the turn of the century families such as Curtis, Bok, Keep, Gribbel, Dillingham and Borland not only built beautiful estates but their generosity to the community resulted in the elegant public library, the classical amphitheatre, which was designed by Fletcher Steele, the Camden Harbor Park, which was designed by the Olmsted Brothers, the Village Green, and the Camden Opera House.

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