History of Augusta
The area of present-day Augusta was first explored by the members of Popham Colony in 1607. Members of the Plymouth Colony established in 1629 a trading post on the Kennebec River and called it by its Indian name - “Cushnoc.” The post was soon abandoned due to the conflicts with Native Americans in the area. At the time, the forts and settlements along the Kennebec River was under constant attacks by the Abenaki Indians, who were centered in and around Norridgewock. The Abenaki first attacked Fort Richmond and then destroyed Brunswick, prompting a fierce response by the British colonists who raided Norridgewock in 1724. It was clear that the area needed more British posts and a new fort, called Fort Western, was created in Cushnoc. This fort, and the town itself, were an important center for supplies and for troop gatherings in subsequent wars and conflicts, such as the Battle of Quebec.
Cushnoc was first incorporated in 1771 but initially it was part of Hallowell. In 1797, it was incorporated as an individual town and named Harrington. The same year it was renamed Augusta, after the daughter of Henry Dearborn, a physician and statesman from New Hampshire. The Kennebec County was asto established and Augusta was chosen as the county seat. Maine gained statehood in 1820 and seven years later Augusta became the state capital. Until the Maine State House in Augusta was completed in 1832, the state legislature met at Portland, the largest city in the state. Augusta entered a period of constant growth after being declared the state capital, however in the last decades of the 19th century it was surpassed by fast-growing Midwestern cities.
The soil in the area was good for agricultural activities and the water supply from the Kennebec River was also important for the economy in Augusta. With the arrival of the railroad in 1850s, Augusta became an important mill town. Cotton, paper, pulp, lumber and wooden products were the main products in the city and other significant sectors included publishing and shipping. The central business district was on Water Street. The city’s structure was densely concentrated, which made it sensitive to fires - in 1865, a large fire destroyed more than 100 buildings in the city. Many government offices moved away from the business district and as the population grew and the economy developed, companies moved further along as well. In the 20th century, the city officials have tried to revitalize downtown Augusta.
Old and abandoned factories and mills turned into housing projects, the old dam on Kennebec was relocated and its site was turned into a public park. Government institutions and agencies moved their offices to the eastern bank of the Kennebec.
Military presence was always important in Augusta, ever since the foundation of Fort Western. During the American Civil War, the city was a meeting point for the troops on their way to the front. Camp Keyes was established in 1862 and during the World War I it served as a training and mobilization camp. The camp later became the headquarters of the Maine National Guard, who still uses it for administrative purposes.
Geography and Climate
Augusta is the easternmost state capital in the USA. It lies in the Eastern Time Zone (UTC-5) and occupies an area of 58.3 square miles. Besides the Kennebec River, other important bodies of water in Augusta and its area include Bond’s Brook and Woromontogus Stream. Augusta lies at 120 feet above sea level.
The city has a humid continental climate, with warm and humid summers and long, cold and snowy winters.
Augusta has a population of 18,560, of which 96,21% are Whites, 1.35% are Asian, 0.86% are Hispanics or Latinos, 0.48% are Native Americans, 0.01% are Pacific Islanders, while 1.3% are from two or more races and 0.16% are of some other race. The median household income in Augusta in 2010 was $29,921 and the per capita income in the city was $19,145.
The local government is led by a mayor-council system. The council has eight members and the mayor serves a three-year term. Augusta police department is one of the few PDs in the USA that have not had an officer killed in the line of duty for more than 100 years.
Economy of Augusta
Local and state government is the largest employer in Augusta. The city also relies on financial institutions, law firms, consulting and health care. Manufacturing used to be a large economic sector for the city, but it has declined since the late 1990s. High-tech companies, retail, warehousing and tourism are also significant sources of revenue in Augusta.
Some of the largest companies in the city include Central Maine Power Company, CSI Systems, Maine General Medical Center, Microdyne, Shop’n’Save, Pine State Vending Company and O’Connor GMC Buick.
Some of the attractions in Augusta include the Blaine House (the governor’s mansion, a National Historic Landmark), Fort Western (the original settlement in Augusta and the oldest wooden fort in USA), Lithgow Public Library, Maine State House, Maine State Museum and Viles Arboretum. The Capitol Park, in addition to be one of the local’s favorite places in the city, also has a historic significance as it represented an encampment for Maine troops during the Civil War.
Major annual events in Augusta include the Whatever Family Festival and the Common Ground Fair.
Augusta has five public schools, one private school and one college - the University of Maine at Augusta. The city has two public libraries - Lithgow Public Library and Maine State Library.
The closest airport in the city is the Augusta State Airport, a small airport served by US Airways Express. North-east access to the city is possible through Maine Turnpike, I-95, U.S. 201 and State Road 27, while the U.S. 202 provides east-west access. Public bus transportation options include Greyhound Bus Lines and Vermont Transit Lines.