Castine is a town rich in historic sites. When visitors wander through town, they
might wonder what happened in this building or site. In Castine, just about anything could have
happened from a Dutch raid on a 17th century French fort, to a Revolutionary War battle, to current-day midshipmen training on a former U.S. Navy research vessel.
To help people explore and gain a deeper understanding about these and many other historic sites in town, the Castine History Partners has launched the Castine Virtual History Tour, covering 27 places in town spanning four centuries in time. Using the latest technology, as users wander through town they can read and hear about a variety of places while viewing galleries of historic images and documents that bring the stop to life.
How can you take the tour? While it’s preferable to take the tour while visiting Castine where tour goers can see the sites in person, anyone can “take” the tour no matter where you are. The tour is available as a free program, or “app,” that can be downloaded at any time to a mobile device from the Google Play or Apple App Store. To access them visit www.castinehistoricalsociety.org/castine-virtual-tour. If tour goers don’t have a smartphone or tablet, they can also take the tour online at www.castine.oncell.com.
The Castine History Partners, a coalition of Castine’s non-profits and the town government, researched and designed this interactive learning project. The project’s goals are to create excitement for Castine’s history, encourage increased tourism, and build partnerships among Castine’s cultural institutions and the town.
To create the tour, the Castine History Partners worked together collaboratively for over a year. Each committee member took several sites and researched them in the archives of the Wilson Museum and the Castine Historical Society. Then the members wrote a short, concise history and found historic photos and documents to display in the on-line galleries.
The committee’s goal was to use between 150-200 words to describe each site. Committee members worked hard at distilling the facts that would interest visitors while ensuring the highest level of historical accuracy in the write-ups.
A case in point was the dating of the British Canal. As visitors drive into town, they see the historic sign declaring that the Canal was built in 1779. But was it? No written reports exist from the period that mention building the canal. During the research phase, the Castine History Partners had access to maps of Castine drawn prior to 1815 that depict only a salt marsh in this area. The first evidence of a canal appears on a map from April of 1815 after the British forces evacuated Castine at the end of the War of 1812. This documentary evidence led the committee to date the canal to the British occupation of Castine between 1814-1815.
Alvion Kimball, Chairman of DownEast Acadia Regional Tourism writes of the tour, “If you think you’re interested in Maine’s history, the downloadable app that provides a History Tour of Castine is fun to use. It’s the first of its kind in the DownEast Acadia Region and, to my knowledge, the most useable and in-depth history tour for any municipality in Maine. The project is an excellent example of collaboration and cooperation between the myriad organizations, enthusiasts and individuals that made it possible. Like the town and history it celebrates, the Castine Virtual History Tour is a work in progress that you can enjoy and participate in.”
The project was funded by grants from the Hancock County Fund of the Maine Community
Foundation, the Maine Humanities Council, and from additional support of the Castine Community Partners. Members of the Castine History Partners represent the Castine Historical Society, Maine Maritime Academy, the Town of Castine, Wilson Museum, and the Witherle Memorial Library.
The Castine History Partners continue to meet monthly and are working on the creation of a new tour for 2020. The group is excited about the many possibilities for future themed tours of Castine. In a town where history is literally around every corner, the Castine History Partners has plenty of material to use for future tours.