Maine’s capital is the most eastern capital city in the U.S. Here are five more facts about the city of Augusta:
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1. Rich History
While American Indians lived in the Augusta area for centuries, the first European settlers set down roots in the early 1600s
. Colonies came and went for decades, driven away by Maine’s harsh winters. The first permanent settlement was when Kennebec Proprietors built Fort Western in 1754. Augusta’s streets and buildings today bear the names of many of those early residents, while Fort Western has been restored as a historic site and the oldest wooden fort remaining in New England
2. Sorry Portland
Before Augusta took the title, Portland served for a short time as the capital of Maine
. The statehouse was located in a two-story building in the coastal city, at the corner of Congress and Myrtle streets. Leaders decided the capital should be more centrally located and moved it to Augusta. Portland tried to win the capital back for decades, but Augusta has held its ground. Portland’s original statehouse burned to the ground during the state’s great fire of 1866.
3. Pricey Statehouse
Maine’s capital was redesignated as Augusta in 1827, but the legislature didn’t start meeting there until 1832, when the elaborate capital building was complete
. The statehouse cost $145,000 to build -- an extremely high figure for that time. The site has been expanded, remodeled and renovated repeatedly since then, with the original building still a working statehouse and a historic landmark today.
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4. Manufacturing Boom
Augusta thrived through the 1800s and early 1900s, seeing the birth of a steamboat line, railroad service, gas street lamps and other developments
. Manufacturing thrived, with wood and paper products, textiles and shoes flowing down the Kennebec River and along rail lines to the rest of the country.
5. Reinventing the Capital
While the State of Maine itself remains by far Augusta’s largest employer, other industries in the city have shifted and shuttered as the economy evolved. So in the past several decades, Augusta has labored to reinvent itself. Blue collar manufacturing jobs have started to be replaced by high-tech and health jobs. The city is also working to redevelop its historic downtown waterfront area
, with abandoned mills converted to new uses and a dam removed to bring wildlife back to the Kennebec River.
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