Historic downtown tours offered
“They’re very quiet, classic New England neighborhoods,” Ray Foster said while walking the streets of downtown Machias.
The Washington County seat may be small, but it is rich in history, especially when it comes to the Revolutionary War.
Originally part of the Massachusetts colony, 16 original settlers of Machias came to the area by way of Scarborough, seeking refuge from drought-stricken land. They settled the area in 1763.
In a partnership with the Machias Bay Chamber of Commerce, local artist and historian Ray Foster brings alive the Downeast town’s rich history through walking tours of the historic downtown. He is a direct descendent of one of original families that settled Machias.
Starting out from the chamber’s office on Main Street, Foster leads Tim and Sherry Clippinger of Stewartstown, Pa., and their young granddaughter across the Pope Memorial Bridge spanning Bald Little Falls. According to Foster, the falls’ brownish water color is due to two factors: the amount of lumber that lies on the bottom and its high iron content.
Stop No. 1 is the O’Brien Cemetery in a small wooded area. The cemetery is significant because it is the resting place of Col. Jeremiah O’Brien, a Revolutionary war hero. O’Brien directed local patriots from Machias and nearby towns to capture the Margaretta, a British ship, in a battle known as the “Lexington of the sea.”
Back over the bridge, Foster takes visitors to view a variety of different Federal-style homes and to see the “old part” of the Machias Savings Bank. Farther on is one of the original schoolhouses in town.
One of the most prominent stops is the Centre Street Congregational Church. Built in 1836, the classic white church is on the National Register of Historic Places list. Inside the church is an original bell made by Paul Revere.
Other destinations on the tour include the post office, the Porter Memorial Library and the courthouse.
The final stop is the Burnham Tavern. Built in 1770 by Job Burnham, the inn was a meeting place for local men and a place to stay for travelers. In 1910, the Hannah Weston Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution took over care of the tavern. Today, it serves as a museum.
Special tours also can be arranged through the Machias Bay Chamber. For more info, call 255-4402. Tours cost $10 per person.