Portland prepares for Fort Allen bicentennial

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PORTLAND — The cannons are back and the dignitaries are coming as Fort Allen prepares to celebrate its bicentennial Sept. 19-20.

On Sept. 2, two restored Civil War-era field pieces were returned to the park on Eastern Promenade near Fore Street. On Friday, a gun salvaged from the USS Maine, which blew up in Havana on Feb. 15, 1898, will also be returned to the park.

The explosion of the USS Maine triggered the Spanish-American War, which ended with America taking possession of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Phillipine Islands from Spain.

On Sept. 19, George Daughan, author of “1812, The Navy’s War,” and Maine State Historian Earle Shettleworth will take part in a 90-minute discussion of the War of 1812 and the city and state role in the war. The program begins at 7 p.m. at the Maine Jewish Museum, 267 Congress St.

On Sept. 20, the park bicentennial celebration will being with a 10 a.m. moment of silence in commemoration of the American soldiers buried at the War of 1812 cemetery on the Eastern Promenade, followed by a procession to the fort led by Marine Corps League of Southern Maine.

At 11 a.m., the celebration at the five-acre park commences. Gov. Paul LePage and Mayor Michael Brennan will speak, and Chandlers Military Band will play.

Concluding remarks will be made by Diane Davison, executive director of Friends of Eastern Promenade, the group spearheading a $1.5 million park renovation that began about a year ago.

Funding from public and private sources funded new benches, a restored loop around the bandstand and bandstand improvements.

The field piece carriages had been rotting, according to a Friends newsletter, and have been restored using aluminum carriages “that will closely resemble the original wooden carriages and be far better suited to Maine winters.”

The cannons are being placed on pads simulating the original wood mounts and positioned for historical accuracy.

The fort site had been used for artillery placements during the Revolutionary War, but was more formally constructed when America went to war with Great Britain for a second time in 1812. The fort was name in honor of U.S. Navy Lt. William H. Allen Jr., who served in the War of 1812 and was the son of a Revolutionary War Navy officer.

The War of 1812 was fought along the Atlantic Ocean, Great Lakes and in Canada and New Orleans through 1815, and spurred talk of secession by New England states unhappy about the disruption of trade.

In August 1814, British troops captured Washington, D.C., and burned the city, forcing the American government to flee. A land battle and subsequent bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The bicentennial celebration at Fort Allen culminates a labor of love for the Friends.

“This is a sacred landscape,” Davison said in July. “We’re happy to be restoring it to the level of integrity it deserves.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Edited Sept. 12 to correct the spelling of George Daughn’s name, and the naming of Fort Allen Park after Lt. William H. Allen Jr.

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Two restored Civil War-era cannons greet the morning sun Tuesday, Sept. 9, a week after they were returned to Fort Allen Park on the Eastern Promenade near Fore Street in Portland. The park is undergoing a $1.5 million renovation that began about a year ago and will be the subject of a bicentennial celebration Saturday, Sept. 20.

Charlotte Daniels, of Portland, passes two restored Civil War-era cannons Tuesday, Sept. 9, during a morning walk in Fort Allen Park on Portland’s Eastern Promenade. The park is undergoing a $1.5 million renovation that began about a year ago and will be the subject of a bicentennial celebration Saturday, Sept. 20.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.