Best-selling author and talented Bangor resident Stephen King and his wife Tabitha (also an author), really love their hometown. They own classic rock radio station WKIT radio 100.3 in Bangor. It is one of the few commercial radio stations in the U.S. that is still locally owned and operating live all day and night, every day of the week. Steven and Tabitha also own WZON—a sports radio station, and the Kings built a baseball field for Bangor kids to enjoy the greatest American pastime.
Downtown Bangor was such a happening place during the lumber years that the largest department store in Maine, Freese’s, was opened on Main Street in 1892. The Bangor shopping location was cheekily dubbed “Fifth Avenue in Maine.” With the recent redevelopment and the rehabilitation of the Freese building, downtown Bangor still harkens back to its original historic majesty. Incidentally, the New York version of Fifth Avenue and Main is located in the Bronx.
By 1850 Bangor was the lumber capitol of the world and the world's busiest lumber port during the Civil War. Thanks to hearty northern Maine lumber, shipbuilding and commerce, Bangor was considered a business and cultural Mecca. The tough and manly lumberman later inspired the satirical, tongue-in-cheek Monty Python tune entitled “I’m a Lumberjack.” Let’s just hope they don’t sing it in Bangor.
The Great Fire of 1911 tested the Queen City’s mettle and spirit. Fifty-five acres of land were affected, causing more than $3 million in damages. The entire event lasted only nine hours. Bangor High School students rescued all the school trophies and 19 typewriters. Bangor residents’ bravery and honor resulted in negligible looting, and the boy scouts even pitched in to guard belongings and personal property. Rains kindly put out the fire nine hours after it began, and the town was restored in a mere two years.
Irish poet Oscar Wilde made only one stop in Maine during his American tour. He stayed at the famed Bangor House in 1882. His tour was considered so vulgar and bawdy that not one of the respectable women of Bangor was allowed to attend, regardless of her scholarly interest.
Bangor residents can boast that Don A. Sargent of Bangor invented the snowplow attachment for trucks. In fact, he did better than that. The clever Bangorian improved his original design to add the ability to shift the nose of the plow vertically. His movable plow allowed for control of the depth of the cut. The patent for this improvement was issued in August of 1925. Bangor folks know their snow, and they know how to get rid of it.
The Rev. Seth Noble named Bangor unintentionally. In 1791 Maine was part of Massachusetts, but settlers wanted their independence. Noble went to Boston to deliver the town’s petition whistling a favorite Irish hymn—Bangor. When the court asked Noble what his town was to be called, he stated “Bangor” accidentally instead of the previously agreed upon Sunbury. The General Court approved Bangor’s incorporation in 1791. Divine intervention or happy accident?
The famous Paul Bunyan statue sits prominently on Main Street in Bangor. The statue itself was gifted to Bangor in 1959, but the aptly named Mr. W.B. Laughead had previously marketed the Red River Lumber Company to buyers using Bunyan’s image in advertising pamphlets from 1914 to 1944—propelling Bunyan to fame in Minnesota. However, Bangor folks staunchly assert their right to claim Bunyan as their own native son.
Back in the 1930s, Central Street in Bangor was the site of a wild shoot out with America’s then public enemy number one—gangster, Al Brady. A suspicious-looking group marched into a sporting goods store inquiring about pistols and Tommy guns. Knowing the requested guns were never used for hunting down east, the shop owner alerted authorities. Federal agents confronted Al Brady and his gang outside the store and exchanged fire. Most of the gangsters, including Brady, were killed. His body wasn’t claimed, and it rests in Mount Hope Cemetery to this day. His brain rests in a jar at Eastern Maine General Hospital.
Bangor has the distinction of having spent time on both the list of the top 25 places to live for raising children and for retirees. Both ends of the age spectrum and everyone in between agree—nothing beats Bangor’s New England city with a small-town feel. From the arts, shopping, dining, festivals, waterfront, symphony, theater, parks, outdoor activities and museums, what’s not to love?
Did you already know these facts about Bangor, shopping, lumber and all? Check out our round up of Portland trivia.