Falmouth 300: Waterfront crucial to town’s development, history

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FALMOUTH — Easy access to Casco Bay was essential to Falmouth’s early development. It first helped the town become a thriving maritime hub and later a seaside resort.

That’s why, as part of its ongoing tercentennial celebration, Falmouth is honoring its long-time connection to the bay with a special Waterfront Bash scheduled for 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at Town Landing.

This signature Falmouth 300 event, which is free and open to the public, will include a variety of activities from music and kids activities to stand up paddleboard demonstrations and tours of Falmouth’s police boat.

No parking will be allowed at Town Landing during the festivities, but a free shuttle bus will be offered between Tyler Technologies on Route 1 and the landing throughout the day.

Other upcoming 300th events include a talk entitled “A Deserted and Conquered Country: Falmouth’s Tumultuous Birth,” which will be held at 2 p.m. Sept. 16 at Lunt Auditorium.

This lecture is part of the “Changing Landscapes, Shifting Tides: The Story of Falmouth,” series and is free and open to the public, although reservations are required. See www.falmouth300.org for more.

The talk, which will be presented by Falmouth High alum Zachary Bennett, explores the Indian wars, which devastated Falmouth more than three centuries ago.

And, on Sept. 26, Falmouth Parks and Community Programs will offer a bus tour of West Falmouth designed to showcase some of the town’s most notable historic sites. The tour will be offered at 2 p.m. and again at 4 p.m. Pre-registration is required. This tour will be repeated on Oct. 17.

“Falmouth’s location on Casco Bay is a crucial part of its history,” said Erin Bishop Cadigan, the town’s tercentennial coordinator. “We forget in modern times that the primary means of travel prior to the mid-1800s was by water.”

Access to a water source was imperative not only for commerce and transportation purposes, but often to survival, as well, she said, which is why the Tercentennial Committee felt it would be particularly meaningful to recognize the importance of Falmouth’s connection to the water.

“For centuries prior to European settlement, Native Americans made their homes along the shores of Casco Bay, where they found

abundant fishing and fertile soil for farming,” Cadigan said.

Even early European explorers took note of Casco Bay “for its protected harbor, abundant wildlife and towering pines.” In addition, Casco Bay and the Presumpscot River “provided what one historian called a ‘confluence of geography and commerce,’” she said.

Colonial Falmouth included the communities of Portland, South Portland, Westbrook and Cape Elizabeth, where shipbuilding and the mast trade fueled the early economy, Cadigan said.

By 1710, tidal mills, which were essential to the lumber trade, were established at Mussel Cove, she said, and today’s Falmouth, then known as New Casco, was also the site of several family-run shipyards.

“In the late 1800s, Falmouth’s ocean setting took on a different economic role in the community,” according to Cadigan. “With the introduction of a trolley system, Falmouth Foreside became an increasingly popular vacation destination for those looking to escape the heat and unhealthy environs of the city in summertime.”

As well, “steamboats ran regularly from Town Landing to Portland, Freeport and the islands of Casco Bay (and) farmers sold off their lands for summer cottage communities or established motor camps to cater to those seeking ocean breezes and beautiful sea views,” she said.

Town Landing, which was originally known as Foster’s Landing, was nearly always a center of boating and fishing activity in town and today it’s the largest recreational anchorage north of Marblehead, Massachusetts.

What organizers hope is that through the Waterfront Bash attendees will get a true appreciation “for this important aspect of their community and its history,” Cadigan said.

The 300th kicked off with a fireworks show in mid-December and nearly every week since there’s been some kind of tercentennial-related activity or event.

They’re all leading up to Incorporation Day, the primary 300th event, which will be held on Nov. 11. Cadigan said planning has already begun, but “we would love to have volunteers join us in developing this special event.”

So far, she said, “The Tercentennial Committee has been thrilled with the turn-out and interest in all of our events and activities.”

“Interest has been high and many events have been filled to capacity, especially our Changing Landscapes, Shifting Tides series. Donations have (also) been pouring in each month for our Donate300 challenge.”

Falmouth continues its 300th celebration with a Waterfront Bash at Town Landing on Saturday, Sept. 8. The waterfront has been key to Falmouth’s development as a town, tercentennial coordinators say.