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Historic Bath, Maine

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The last moments of daylight were disappearing when I arrived in Bath, Maine.  I had just enough time to take a quick look at some of the architecture that has helped make Bath famous.

The first building that’s likely to catch your attention is the Bath City Hall.  This building is, quite literally, front and center in downtown Bath, thanks to its position at the intersection of Front Street and Centre Street.  If you come into downtown on Centre Street, the building’s limestone columns will greet you at the top of the hill.

Bath’s City Hall is officially known as the Davenport Memorial City Hall, in memory of the prominent Davenport Family.  Charles and George Davenport (father and son, respectively) were both born at the site now occupied by City Hall, where Benjamin Davenport (Charles’ father) had his home and hat store.  Charles was one of the first aldermen of Bath.

In the belfry atop Bath’s City Hall, there’s a two-century-old bell, believed to have been cast by Paul Revere himself.  It is only rung occasionally, on holidays like the 4th of July.

A stroll down Bath’s narrow Front Street takes you past storefronts filled with businesses that are still in business.  Unfortunately, most of them were closing for the day, just as I arrived in town.

Another stately building in Bath is the Customs House, at the end of Front Street.  This building was constructed between 1852 and 1858 to house Bath’s post office, and the Customs Collector who oversaw the port.  Now, several businesses are located in the building.

Morris Povich and his son Don ran this clothing store from 1916 to 1994.  If the name sounds familiar, there’s a good reason.  Maury Povich of TV talk show fame is related to the Poviches of Bath.

Bath’s most prominent feature is its location at the edge of the broad Kennebec River.  It’s this location that allowed Bath to flourish as a center for shipbuilding — a rich history that dates back 400 years.  The Bath Iron Works is still cranking out ships — and you’ll notice the shipyard’s heavy equipment, on the south side of these bridges.

Speaking of these bridges, the one on the left is the US 1 bridge over the Kennebec River.  A railroad bridge is on the right.  You can walk down to the water’s edge, and underneath the bridges, with just a short stroll downhill from the center of downtown Bath.

If you want to get to know Bath’s history, your first stop should be at the Maine Maritime Museum.  The museum complex is spread out on 25 acres of waterfront property, and includes five shipyard buildings that date back to the 1800’s.  Admission is $12 for adults, $9 for children (as of 2010).  Check out this website for updated information.

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