Stroll through Eastport’s downtown – rebuilt within a year or two of the disastrous 1886 fire and now in the National Register of Historic Places – and you’d think it was always like this, only with all of the storefronts bustling.
Not so, as I’ve been hearing, and that’s confirmed by a closer look at the undated aerial photograph on the cover of Joe Clabby’s two history books.
So as an idea of how things have changed.
- The waterfront is still full of sardine canneries set out on wharfs just behind the storefronts downtown, but many of the operations are now abandoned. There had been 21 at the prime around the turn of the century, but only one is still operating after 1975 and that ceases in the early ‘80s. As one local told me, you could watch the town fall into the water. Only the shell of the American Can factory still stands today.
- In fact, you would have a hard time seeing the water. The Waterfront Redevelopment Project, launched in 1978 and completed in 1983, cleaned up much of the scene and installed the popular walkway.
- The railway station, successor to the steamboat pier sits, beside the American Can factory. There’s a large apron in front of it, possibly for parking.
- A big movie theater occupies the space where the parking lot and the fisherman statue are now. And another big building fills the now-open space of the amphitheater. Today both are big gaps in the row of storefronts but allow more sunlight into the district.
- No Breakwater pier. That won’t come until 1961, with extensions later. It’s the focal point today.
- And no Fish Pier, which further defines the harbor.
- A rail line still runs into town. Service will end in 1978 and the tracks, removed.
- The Hotel East sits where the Motel East now is – at a 90-degree angle to the original.
- A row of houses is perched at the water’s edge of Shackford Cove. Long gone.
- There’s no Coast Guard station.
Here’s how the waterfront looked even earlier, from two photographs taken by Lewis Wickes Hine in August 1911, now in the Library of Congress collection.
There’s nothing “quaint” about the place in these, is there?