Maine’s downtowns are home to hundreds of beautiful historic buildings. These edifices retain the character from the days when downtown was the destination for shopping, entertainment and jobs.
In the last few years, there has been a significant revitalization and preservation efforts in these downtowns and residents are once again choosing “Main Street” as a place to work, live and play.
We invite you to discover some of Maine’s most iconic and architecturally important downtown buildings. Enjoy the tour and plan your visit with MainStreetMaine.org!
The Old Post Office and Court House is a historic former federal government building at 295 Water Street in downtown Augusta, Maine. Built in 1886-1890, it is one of Maine’s finest surviving examples of Romanesque Revival architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The former Post Office and Court House stands on the east side of Water Street, Augusta’s principal commercial downtown thoroughfare, at the southeast corner with Winthrop and Front Streets. It was designed by Mifflin E. Bell (1846-1904), the Supervising Architect of the US Treasury Department. Bell’s term ended July 1887, and his successor William Alfred Freret finished the job, and the building opened in January 1890.
For more information, click HERE
The oldest surviving wood fort in New England, this 1754 structure houses historic collections. Fort Western is a former British colonial outpost at the head of navigation on the Kennebec River at modern Augusta, Maine, United States. It was built in 1754 during the French and Indian War, and is now a National Historic Landmark and local historic site owned by the city. Its main building, the only original element of the fort to survive, was restored in 1920 and now depicts its original use as a trading post. The fort and store are maintained as a museum and are open to the public during the summer months.
For more information, click HERE
The building (which opened in 1913 and closed in 1969), is the last surviving historic cinema in Augusta and represents an important part of the city’s past and that of the early film industry. The theater exhibits several design styles including Beaux Arts, Georgian Revival and Art Deco, and in its heyday the Colonial was a primary site for entertainment for residents before the age of automobiles, videotapes and cable TV. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now saved from demolition, there is currently a significant effort through a coalition of several key area organizations to preserve the Colonial Theater to ensure its reuse potential for the cultural and economic benefit of Augusta, and for future generations to enjoy.
For more information: http://www.augustacolonialtheater.org/
The U.S. Customhouse and Post Office is a historic commercial building in downtown built by the federal government in 1858. It is a fine example of Italianate architecture designed by Ammi B. Young and housed the local post office and customs facilities until 1970. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The plans of the library were offered free of charge by George E. Harding an architect who at that time lived and practiced in New York, but was a Bath native. His design, which was in Richardsonian Romanesque style and architecturally unique, was based on the ideas of the nationally popular architect H. H. Richardson. The exterior clearly indicates where the reading room, library stacks, and stair tower are located, giving a fortress-like sense for housing the library’s “treasures”, the books. Construction of the building began in 1889 and the library opened to the public in 1891.
For more information: http://www.patten.lib.me.us/
The Sagadahoc County Courthouse was built in 1869 and designed by Francis Henry Fassett in the Italianate style.
The Chocolate Church is Gothic Revival designed by Arthur Gilman and built in 1847 by Isaiah Coombs. The Chocolate Church is now a center for the arts.
For more information: https://www.chocolatechurcharts.org/
The Belfast National Bank is a commercial building in the heart of historical downtown Belfast. Dating from 1879, the National Bank Building has elements of Gothic architecture and is one of the city’s most elaborately decorated buildings and a local landmark.
The former Masonic Temple was built in 1877 features Masonic symbols and carvings on the top, including the “G” and the all-seeing eye. Similar to the Belfast National Bank building, the Masonic building is one of the city’s most decorated and visible architectural icons.
The Hayford Block was built by Belfast Mayor Axel Hayford and was the first major construction to take place after a devastating fire swept through downtown Belfast in 1865. The north side of the “block” has a flatiron, triangular form and west side houses Belfast’s opera house, one of the city’s leading performance venues, playing host to traveling theater companies, vaudeville shows, and local entertainment, including a speech by Frederick Douglass.
The Clock Tower is downtown Biddeford’s most prominent icon, and is so symbolic that it appears with almost every image of the city. The tower is an 1896 civic landmark designed by John Calvin Stevens.
News! Sept. 24, 2018 – The historic Biddeford City Hall Clock Tower is one of 20 carefully selected projects nationwide to compete in a National Geographic digital voting contest for $150,000 national preservation grants. The fund would allow the city of Biddeford, Maine to return the clock to working order and rebuild the four faces of decorative work. You are invited to vote for Biddeford. It’s easy and free.
VOTE HERE: voteyourmainstreet.org/biddeford
City Theater is part of the Biddeford City Hall complex, designed by Maine architect John Calvin Stevens in 1895. The building is included on the National Register of Historic Places and is a contributing element to the Biddeford Main Street Historic District.
For more information: https://www.citytheater.org/
The Pejepscot Museum sits in the Skolfield–Whittier House, a Victorian Italianate-style duplex built between 1858 and 1862. The building is often referred to as a “time capsule” because it has been virtually untouched since the Victorian era.
For more information: http://pejepscothistorical.org/
The museum is housed in the Walker Art Building which was commissioned for the College in the mid-nineteenth century by Harriet and Sophia Walker in honor of their uncle, a Boston businessman who had supported the creation of the first small art gallery at Bowdoin. Designed by Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead, and White, the building was completed in 1894 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
For more information: https://www.bowdoin.edu/art-museum/
The Lemont Block, also called the Lemont/Wyler building, is a stately brick structure at the corner of Maine and Pleasant streets, built in 1870 by the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal order established during the Civil War.
Built in 1881, the Gardiner Library was designed in the Italianate style by architect Henry Richards. Make sure to visit the Children’s Room on the second floor!
For more information: http://www.gpl.lib.me.us/
Johnson Hall dates from 1864 when a local hotel owner, Benjamin Johnson, had the vision of converting his modest livery stable into a performance hall that would attract patrons from all around the area. Johnson Hall is designated as the oldest theater in Maine. For more information: https://www.johnsonhall.org/
The entire historic downtown of Gardiner is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and there are many “block” of buildings including the 1876 Milliken Block, the Barker Block, etc.
The Farnsworth Homestead is a historic house museum built in 1854 by William A. Farnsworth. It is an excellent late example of Greek Revival architecture, and was the home of Lucy Farnsworth, the major benefactor of the Farnsworth Art Museum, which owns the house and operates it as a museum property. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. More information / Visit
The Security Trust Building is a historic commercial building at Museum and Main Streets in downtown Rockland, Maine, United States. Built in 1912, it is a high-quality local example of Colonial Revival architecture, designed by Boston architect R. Clipston Sturgis. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
The Rankin Block on Main Street is a well-designed Greek Revival commercial building built in 1853. The building, which faces the harbor, was at the center of activity during Rockland’s most prosperous years as a thriving seaport and was used by businesses related to maritime commerce including a ship chandlery, shipping offices, and a sail loft.
The museum’s distinctive red brick Colonial Revival building was designed by the noted Maine architect John Calvin Stevens in 1926.
For more information: http://www.sacomuseum.org/
Saco City Hall is a transitional Greek Revival-Italianate brick building, constructed in 1855 to a design by local carpenter Thomas Hill who oversaw the building’s construction. The masonry of the building work was done by Abraham and Barnabus Cutter. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
For more information: http://www.sacomaine.org/
The Jacobs Houses and Store is a collection of three Federal-period historic buildings located at 9 through 17 Elm Street. Built between 1820 and 1826, there are two similar wood-frame houses and a large brick commercial building, all associated with the Jacobs, a family of local businessmen. The buildings are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.
(nearby) The Way Way General Store is a historical and architecturally eclectic general store built 1927-29 built out of hand-formed concrete blocks painted red and white on the first floor, and shingled wood framing on the second. The store shelters two c. 1940s “National” brand gasoline pumps, no longer in service, and the interior of the building retains all of its original layout, fixtures, and woodwork. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architecture and its role in the rural economy of northern Saco.
For more information: https://www.waywaystore.com/
The Patten Block is the oldest surviving building in the district, and may date as far back as 1836. This building’s interesting history includes an extended period when it was occupied by a restaurant that also operated a speakeasy during the state’s many years of Prohibition.
The Skowhegan Opera House is located in the Skowhegan Municipal Building and is was designed by John Calvin Stevens, a prolific and innovative architect who designed more than 1,000 buildings in Maine. The building is in the Colonial Revival style and was built 1907–1909.
The Skowhegan History House is a historic house and museum built in 1839. This two-story brick house is one of the few of that period to survive Skowhegan’s industrialization later in the 19th century and is now a non-profit museum and research center.
For more information: http://skowheganhistoryhouse.org/
The Walker Memorial Library is an architecturally distinguished French Chateauesque building designed by Frederick A. Tompson and built in 1894. The exterior is accented by decorative use of yellow brick, and panels of terracotta and the interior features extensive use of oak beams and filigreed woodwork. The library is on the National Register of Historic Places.
For more information: https://walkerlibrary.org/
The Warren Block is a historic commercial building built in 1882 to a design by John Calvin Stevens. It is a sophisticated example of commercial Queen Anne architecture and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Old Westbrook High School is a historic school building built in 1886, and is one of the city’s most architecturally sophisticated 19th-century buildings. Designed by the Portland firm of Fassett & Tompson, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.