One of the nicest homes in Bangor, Maine, is the 1836 Thomas Hill House, a stunning Greek Revival home constructed of brick just outside downtown. The home was built for Thomas A. Hill (1783-1864), a lawyer and banker in town. He clearly made substantial money in his time in Bangor, because he hired architect Richard Upjohn, who was in town at the time overseeing designs for his first church St. John’s Episcopal Church (burned in 1911) and the Farrar Mansion. Thomas Hill suffered financial losses during the Panic of 1837 and the bank foreclosed on his properties. The bank allowed him to stay in the house and pay the insurance, heat and taxes until the home was sold by the bank to Samuel and Matilda Dale, who purchased the home in 1846. Mr. Dale came to Bangor in 1833 as a sail-maker. Eventually he would own grocery and ship chandlery businesses downtown before serving as Mayor of Bangor from 1863-1866 and again in 1871. The Sons of Union Veterans bought the house in 1942 and named it the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial. During 1952 the Bangor Historical Society was allowed to use the house, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. In 1974 the house was deeded to the Bangor Historical Society, who occupy the home to this day.
One of the largest homes I found in Bangor, Maine, was this Queen Anne stunner on High Street, just outside Downtown. After doing some research, I learned that the house was built in 1847 for Oliver Frost, a businessman involved in the lumber business. The home was likely Greek Revival in style based on the time period of the home and nearby houses. Frost is probably best known for his 1869 quote “The time may soon arrive when the three great cities of North America — Bangor, New York, and San Francisco — shall be representatives of the wealth, population, intelligence, and enterprise of the eastern, central and western divisions of our country.” He believed that the lucrative timber industry which led Bangor to become known as the “lumber capital of the world.” The city was home to numerous “lumber barons” and the river was often “jam packed with timber and lumber”. Even the nickname “Queen City of the East” evoked the era’s prosperity. Henry David Thoreau remarked, in 1846, that Bangor was “overflowing with the luxuries and refinement of Europe.” After his quote, the city began a period of decline, when the timber industry moved westward to the Great Lakes region and later, the Pacific Northwest. Frost’s home was later purchased by Egerton R Burpee, an engineer who worked in railroads. He hired Boston architect Arthur H. Vinal, to upgrade and enlarge the house in the then fashionable Queen Anne style we see today. The home has since been converted to commercial use with apartments inside.
In the first couple decades of the 1800s, Bangor, Maine, became the capital of the timberlands of the state, as thousands of acres of untouched forests were sold for lumber harvesting and shipping to other developing parts of the region. The massive cedar trees were shipped by rail and boat to cities like Boston, which lacked such large lumber. At the time, a group of wealthy lumbermen in Bangor wanted a hotel which would impress investors and visitors to the frontier town. Inspired by The Tremont House in Boston, an 1829 hotel that was then regarded as one of the pinnacles of luxury accommodation. The investors hired architect Isaiah Rogers, the same architect who designed the Tremont House years earlier, to design the Bangor House. The two hotels are strikingly similar in design. The hotel expanded numerous times over the decades, until the 20th century, when the town’s prosperity began to falter. Many of the additions have since been torn down as part of the building’s conversion to apartments, replaced by modern residential wings which are much lesser quality of design and construction. Thankfully, the historic core of Bangor House remains very well preserved and as it did nearly 200 years ago!