Observatory Opening Day Draws Good Crowd; Symbol of Maine’s Rich Maritime History


Ass't Site Mgr., Mark Shapp, in Celebatory Dress at the Observatory

Ass't Site Mgr., Mark Shapp, in Celebatory Dress at the Observatory

By Carol McCracken (Post # 483)

Sixty-three people paid to take a tour through the Portland Observatory on its opening day today; climbing roughly 103 steps to the top where, on a clear day, the White Mountains of New Hampshire can be seen. The Observatory is a symbol of Portland’s rich nautical history. Reaching high into the skyline, it’s presence reminds one of a much simpler time in Portland’s history.

Back in 1807, residents of Portland, Massachusetts would have seen a very busy Casco Bay; full of schooners, brigs and smaller vessels bringing coal among other products to the Maine coast. For many reasons, it was and remains an important seaport. However, ship owners had no way of knowing exactly when their ships would be arriving at the wharves and thus when they needed to have crews on hand to unload their products. The wharves and channels could be seen from Munjoy Hill, so it was decided this was the spot to build the Observatory which we still celebrate today. A local sea Captain, Lemuel Moody, famously now, came up with the solution to the problem. He constructed the Portland Observatory. The rest of this fascinating history may be read in the “Portland Observatory”, by John K. Moulton, a 96 page book which can be purchased inexpensively at the gift shop at the Observatory.

Gail Thomas, a new docent this year, said: “It’s a fascinating building, especially since it involved the ocean and ships. Volunteering is extremely important because if not you’ll loose a whole sense of history. They don’t teach this material in schools.” Thomas is a licensed tour guide who has been all over the world for her profession. One reason she decided to volunteer at the Observatory is because it is such a “welcoming” organization.

The Observatory is open from May 29 until October 11. Guided tours are daily from 10 am until 5 pm. (Last tour is at 4:30 pm) Tickets: Adults $8; Seniors/Students AAA$7; children ages 6-16 $5; under 6 Free.