Thursday, October 28, 2010

Augusta, Maine

Today was beautiful here in Maine. The weather was unseasonably warm and I woke up with the need to get out and explore. Today, I chose the capital- Augusta (
I have been working there for over ten years. Starting out in the Kennebec County Jail in 2000 as an officer and moving on to Securitas Security Services in 2004. I graduated from University of Maine at Augusta in 2007. It's fast become one of my favorite places to be.

Explored by English settlers as early as 1607, and established as a trading post in 1629- known as Cushnoc. Fort Western, now the oldest fort in the US, was built in 1754. You can find out more about the fort and it's history at In August of 1797, it was named Augusta after the daughter of Henry Dearborn- check him out he's a very interesting man. Maine became a state in 1820- remember your civil war history- the Missouri Compromise of 1820 allowed Maine to enter as a free state. Augusta was not made its capital until 1832, prior to that it was in Portland.

The state capital building was designed by Charles Bullfinch, the man who also designed the United States Capitol building, as well as Faneuil Hall and the Massachusettes State House- no big surprise here considering Maine used to be part of Massachusettes. I once read some man describing the State House as one of the "ugliest" he had ever seen and showed a picture of the back of the building. When viewed from the back, yeah it's not so hot looking.

However, when viewed from the park at any time of the year, it's beautiful in it's simplicity. It may not be gilded and covered from top to toe in flying buttresses and arched hallways or stone work, but that's not a Maine ideal. We like our simple, unassuming buildings. I haven't been inside in years, but it's a nice place to visit. My brother received his promotion to 2nd Lt. there in the Hall of Flags several years ago, not long after he was shipped out to serve in Iraq (don't worry he came home.)

Capital Park is directly across the street from the State House, featuring a garden dedicated to the lives lost on 9/11 and a memorial for the Vietnam Vets. There is also Calumet Park, which has the city public pool, and Mill Park, which is at the base of Sand Hill- where St. Augustine's Catholic Church is, and which also has a dog park and a boat launch. Mill Park has one of the remaining buildings of Edwards Mill. Throughout the city, homes can be seen with bronze plates on them designating them as historical. This was the housing for the mill workers. Boat landing park is just down from the fort, the Greenway walk passes through it. There is nice little area for children to play on in this park, but even better is the view from there. You can see the back of the Federal building, the Gazebo
On the right of the State House is the Blaine house, the Governors Mansion, and on the left is the Maine State Museum, Library and Archives. The Museum features exhibits about Maine history, currently showcasing an exhibit on Abanaki culture and artwork, which will be showing for only a few months more before it moves on to another location- for more information see In the parking area of the museum,there are memorials to the fallen Law Enforcement Officers and the fallen Fire Fighters of Maine. There is also a pine grove dedicated to the Vietnam Veterans.
Next to the entrance of the museum is a statue of Samantha Smith. Samantha was only 10 when she wrote the letter to Yuri Andropov in 1982 at the height of the Cold War. She became a Goodwill Ambassador and was later known as "America's Youngest Ambassador". She died in a plane crash in Maine on August 25, 1985 at the age of 13. She was living in Manchester, Maine- a town just outside of Augusta. The bear cub at her feet represents both Maine and Russia.

There are two heritage walks in Augusta, there is the Woman's History Trail and the Museum in the Streets. The Woman's History Trail is actually based online at . The trail will take you along the river from Edward's Mill and all the way up Arsenal Hill to Augusta Menthal Health Institute. The Museum in the Streets, however, has signs posted on the walls of buildings and on plaques on posts through-out the city. For more information visit The Museum is also incorporated into the Greenway Trail which is on the East side of the river. The Greenway Trail passes by Old Fort Western, into Boat Landing Park, through the woods, past the Arsenal and into the woods below the AMHI complex, before meeting at a dead end.
On the West side of the river you have the Kennebec River Rail Trail, which is a walkway that spans from the Maine Housing Authority building all the way in to Gardiner. There are plans to eventually link this trail with the other Rail Trails in Maine, eventually linking all the way out of the state and down the coast as far as Florida. The trails accomodate dogs, bikes, walkers and joggers. They follow along the railroad- which is still in use and carries a heavy fine of $2000 if you are found on the rails. For more information on this Another good nature walk can be found at the back parking area of Jewett Hall/University of Maine at Augusta. There is another 9/11 memorial beside the pottery classroom on the campus- not far from the Augusta Civic Center (for what is playing at the civic center check out the website for Augusta and click on the link to it.)
Boat Landing park is a perfect place to put in a boat, I prefer a Kayak. From the there you can go down river all the way into the open ocean at Popham. The water is tidal, so choose the right time to go. There is good fishing on the river, I have caught sunfish. There are reports of stripers, sturgeon and a lot of other fish. It is only safe to eat one fish out of the river per year, so generally the river is just good for catch and release. The upside is that things have gotten better over the last ten years, when you couldn't eat any fish out of the river.
Upper and Lower Togus ponds are on the outskirts of Augusta, they are both good for fishing- I've caught white and yellow perch, bass and pickerel. They say you can catch hornpout in there, but I have yet to see one. You can eat several fish per month from there safely. I love Lower Togus for it's scenery- at the height of summer it is covered in lily pads, loons, ducks and geese. The Upper side is still good for all those sights, but due to the large amount of camps on that side I tend to stay away. Both sides are good for paddling/boating. Neither side is awfully deep that I can tell.
I took today to explore the Viles Arboretum- it may come up as the Pine Tree State Arboretum, the name changed this year. The admission is free, though they would appreciate a donation to help them maintain the trails- which are open year round from dawn until dusk. See for more information. I did manage to get lost, I got out on the outer trail and found myself on trails no longer being maintained. I did happen on to a pine grove. The grove was dedicated to the space shuttle Atlantis, which had taken their seeds into orbit around the earth and were then returned to be grown by the local 4-H group. I also found myself in the Hosta grove, the Viles Pond Loop and the Rock Garden areas. I can not wait to try these trails in my snow shoes.
Arsenal street, which is directly across from the arboretum, will take you past the historic buildings of Augusta Menthal Health- AMHI, all the way to the gates of the Arsenal. Note, when taking pictures of the old buildings of the Arsenal and AMHI, be careful. The new Riverview Psychiatric Center and two other buildings housing the mentally ill are still on that roadway. The confindentiality of the clients is closely guarded and you may be asked to stop by security. The Arsenal has interesting architectural features, and there is a sculpture on the lawn overlooking the river that is really quite interesting to me.
The new Hannaford has been awarded for it's recycling of the old Cony High School- with the exception of the original Flatiron building, which was built in 1880. Notable alumni of Cony High School- Rachel Nichols who most recently starred in GI Joe the Rise of Cobra, and Richard Dysart who played in LA Law in the 80's. I love this Hannaford, with it's "Green" building. I hope that more stores get the hint. There are plenty of stores on both sides of Augusta- the Marketplace has Barnes and Noble, Michael's and Walmart- to name a few, and then there is Target, Best Buy and A.C. Moore out behind the Senator Inn and Spa.
Good book to read about the area:
The Midwife's Tale: the life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785-1812
Today's song:
One eskimO- It's Amazing- all the fall colors, the warmth and the sights around me had that song running through my head all day.
Places to eat:
Pat's Pizza- love them for breakfast, but their pizzas are just as good.
Bay Wrap- their wraps remind me of the ones we got in college.
Lisa's Restaurant- if you are looking for home cooked, this is the way to go.
Whippers- I grew up with a Whipper's pizza practically in my back yard and can only get them here in Augusta- it was and still is my favorite place to get pizza.
China King or Canton Express- for Chinese food these are the only two I buy from.
Sweet Chili Thai Restaurant- not only is the food awesome, but the view of the airport makes me happy.
Cloud 9 at the Senator Inn- I suggest the Cobb Sandwich, if they still have it, sloppy, but sooo good.
Al's Pizza- not your ordinary pizza place.
We have all the chain restuarants, too. And we have all the chain stores most cities do, here. What we do have different, though is...
Downtown Gift's & Crafts- Louanne has a fine selection of wine and sodas, loose teas and tea accessories, among other things.
Cosmic Charlies- incense, tapestries, jewelry, and all kinds of other cool little items.
Cozy Cottage- fabrics and rustic furniture.
Other Places to go-
The Senator Inn and Spa- love the hot stone massage
Lithgow Library
Regal Cinema- I can no longer go due to severe motion sickness.
Waterfront Wednesdays- Waterfront Park, Front Street.
Farmer's Market at Mill Park- Tuesdays 2-6.
With Halloween just around the corner, I would feel remiss if I didn't mention that there is going to be Ghost Tour at Old Fort Western Saturday night starting at 5 p.m. (I'm bummed, I'm working until 8!), trick or treating on Water Street (in participating stores).
I will finish adding pictures later when this thing stops irritating me!

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