Camden was an affluent, touristy town, part of the much loved central Maine coast. Eastport is located on a tiny peninsula in the remote northeastern corner of Maine and boasts that it is the location where the light of day first hits the continental United States. The town's best days are long behind it, but the folks who still live here clearly love this remoteness and its history. When Europeans, mostly the British, first headed out to the New World, Eastport's location was one of the first places they came. Until 1812 the folks who lived here were never sure if they were American or British; the territorial lines shifted regularly. During Prohibition its location so close to Canada with miles of nooks and crannies made it a natural for rum running. At its height 6500 people lived here, making their living from fishing - huge sardine canning facilities lined the dock. Today fishing is still a major activity and the locals are trying to diversify. A modern port facility ships lumber in various forms around the world. Large herds of pregnant cattle are loaded on ships to cruise to spots as distant as Turkey. Huge tide variations 25 feet on average, keep the port ice free year round.
Salmon farms are located right off shore and provided the motivation for the Salmon Festival that takes place here every Labor Day weekend. Because the town is so small and remote, festival activities are low key. For lunch the local ladies cooked up a variety of fish chowders and chili - the smoked salmon was my favorite. On the pier folks participated in a fishing derby and artists lined the shore painting various views of the town.
We went on a historic architecture walking tour. Nearly all of the down town structures date from 1887 after a fire destroyed much of the waterfront. The sardine factories were wooden structures drenched with fish oil and readily exploded with flame. We passed lovely homes on the tour, but many were in great need of repair. Although most of them started as the same basic New England Cape Cod design, each owner chose architectural details and additions that made each house unique. It would be interesting to return here in ten years to see if the hopes and dreams of the locals who still live here were sufficient to spruce things up or if Eastport will ease into ghost town status.