Bangor, Maine, has about the same population as Dover, New Hampshire – 30,000-plus.
But it’s the center of a wide region and has the spotlight to itself. In fact, though I live a 2½-hour drive away, it’s the place we often turn to for what many folks take for granted.
Here’s some perspective.
- It’s where the Penobscot River meets the ocean, so historically it was the world’s leading producer of lumber, which was floated down from the North Woods, milled, and then packed on ocean-going ships.
- Well, that did lead to Old Money, which can be seen in the remaining stately homes and churches built by lumber barons in the 19th century.
- The river also separates the city from Brewer, which adds another 10,000 or so to the metro population and provides some of the services and products we seek.
- Not just the mall and big-box stores, though some of them do deliver way out to our fringe of the state. Don’t overlook new auto dealerships and their service departments, either. Well, we do have one dealer out here in Sunrise County, but it’s not Toyota.
- The vast Northern Light Eastern Medical Center on the bank of the Penobscot River is the hub of an integrated health system spanning much of the state. Frequently, that means this is where your specialist is.
- Bangor International Airport. It’s where you have to go if you need to a commercial airline connection or are meeting an arrival.
- Media. Starting with the Bangor Daily News and Maine Public’s studio.
- University of Maine in neighboring Orono. Well, its impact spills over into downtown Bangor, should you be looking for funky.
- By the 1880s, Bangor was also a leading producer of moccasins, more than 100,000 a year. Should that be a footnote?
- The downtown was struck by major fires in 1856, 1869, 1872, and 1911 – the last one destroying the high school, post office, custom house, public library, telephone and telegraph companies, banks, two fire stations, six churches and a synagogue, about 100 businesses and 285 residences.