By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,178)
The Bicentennial Celebration on the Eastern Promenade was also a tribute to William Henry Allen, for whom the park is named, as well as poignant memories of some of the speakers at today’s gathering on Munjoy Hill. It was all wrapped up in the pomp and pageantry that only the military can perfect. The event was hosted by the Friends of the Eastern Promenade and the City of Portland. The City donated over $ 1 million to the restoration of Ft. Allen Park which was observed in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of the Park.
Three years ago, the Friends of the Eastern Promenade began a complicated and expensive process to transform the Park back to the 1890 to 1930 period considered to be its time of highest integrity by the City of Portland. The Eastern Promenade was placed on the National Register of Historic Landscapes in 1989. That necessitated strict adherence to historic preservation rules.
William Henry Allen, for whom the park is named, was born in Providence, RI. in 1784. He probably never even saw the coast of Maine said local historian Herb Adams in his address to the warmly dressed crowd of about 100 people. Allen was a very ambitious young man who served on the USS Constitution. At the age of 28, he took command of the USS Argus during the War of 1812. In a battle, he was hit in the leg and it was blown off at the knee. He died at Mill Prison Hospital, Plymouth and he is buried at a churchyard in Plymouth as well. He was 29 years old. Allen had no direct descendents. In brief remarks that he read, the controversial* Governor Paul LePage said: “We must learn from our past and invent the future. We will raise up a new generation of people.” He spoke of the sacrifices and heroism of our military in keeping us free.
Portland Mayor Michael Brennan spoke of the personal history that so many have of the Eastern Promenade. Brennan who grew up on Kellogg Street said that he used to think that the Eastern Promenade was the biggest hill in the United States, although he quickly outgrew that notion. His oldest son, a local attorney, was married in this park. “Each of us has our personal history with the Eastern Promenade that will never be recorded anywhere, but will be carried in our hearts. Today marks the next generation of personal history for this park…..when we come together for a common goal, we are at our best.”
Diane Davison, executive director of the Friends of the Eastern Promenade said in part: “This is a sacred landscape and FoEP is the steward of the Park.” She thanked the many, both public and private entities, who contributed to the success of the project
* PLEASE SEE: “The Progressive” September issue for a series of articles – The Republican Governors’ Wild Ride. On page 25, there is a story – Paul LePage: Maine’s Embarrassment.