Bicentennial exhibit in library's Kramer Gallery

Feb 26, 2020
Courtesy of: Belfast Historical Society & Museum The view from the Belfast Post Office looking down Main Street in the 1880s.

Belfast — “Becoming Belfast, Maine, 1770 -1820,” an exhibit created by the Belfast Historical Society & Museum, will be on display March 2 through April 15 in the Kramer Gallery of the Belfast Free Library, 106 High St.

In 2020 the State of Maine celebrates 200 years of statehood, 1820 – 2020. This year Belfast also commemorates its own milestone – Founders Day, 250 years since the first settlements, 1770 – 2020.

Belfast was settled by Scots-Irish families from Londonderry, N.H. in the spring of 1770. The first settlers, about 30 people including children, took possession of their lands on both sides of the harbor. During the Revolution the hundred or so inhabitants suffered greatly from lack of provisions and constant menacing by British warships. After the capture of Castine by the British in August 1779, the town was abandoned for five years. With peace restored, Belfast inhabitants resumed the hard work of building their town. In early 1819, the question about separation was brought to the towns. In Belfast, the vote was 145 in favor and 26 against. Belfast was well-established as both a maritime and market town when the break from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the creation of the state of Maine occurred on March 15, 1820.

The exhibit will include a look at early Belfast people, businesses, residences and industries. A display about the first newspaper, the Hancock Gazette, shows the Belfast reaction to statehood and the celebrations that accompanied the separation from Massachusetts. Highlights from the 1970 celebration of Founders Day, the 200th anniversary of the first settlement, included celebrations that embraced Maine’s 150th anniversary and the 23rd Maine Broiler Festival will be on display.

The Belfast Free Library is partnering with the Belfast Historical Society & Museum to bring a yearlong series of free lectures and exhibits. The first lecture scheduled to coincide with this exhibit will take place Monday, April 6, at 6:30 p.m. with Liam Riordan, Professor of History at the University of Maine. In this illustrated presentation, “What Do We Want History to Do to Us?: Maine’s Bicentennial and Commemoration,” Riordan will explore Maine’s long statehood process that culminated in 1820 with separation from Massachusetts. For more information, please call the library at 338-3884, ext.10.




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