In the Blink of an Eye: 19th-Century Fires and Changing Eastport Architecture

Downtown Eastport, Maine after the Fire of 1886.

This walk will explore Eastport’s downtown and waterfront and how its architecture changed as the result of a series of Great Fires. Beginning with Great Fires in 1839 and 1864 that destroyed the same half of the downtown, the entire downtown and waterfront from Sea Street to Adams Street was leveled by the Greatest Fire in 1886. Immediately following each fire, new buildings were built to replace those lost. These new buildings introduced a succession of new styles of architecture from Greek Revival to Italianate.

Attendees will learn about each fire and the new architectural styles introduced after each fire. Extensive use of new building materials of brick were also introduced after the Greatest Fire of 1886 as was the introduction of new water systems to more effectively fight and prevent future Great Fires. Piped pressured water now flowed through newly installed water mains buried in the streets of the downtown and waterfront. New hydrants at key locations provided access to the pressured water. And Water Street, the main downtown street, was widened, making it less likely for fire to jump across the street. Attendees should wear comfortable walking shoes and expect to walk the seven blocks from lower Sea Street to the foot of Adams Street. Stops along the way will include the foot of Key Street, where the grand three and a half story wooden Passamaquoddy Hotel built after the Great Fire of 1864 was destroyed in the Greatest Fire of 1886. It was replaced in 1893 by the brick Peavey Memorial Library. Another stop will be the foot of Washington Street, where the original Custom House building built of sandstone in 1849 and designed by acclaimed Boston architect, Gridley Bryant of Boston, was destroyed in the Greatest Fire of 1886, It was replaced by the current Post Office building built of granite, from Blue Hill, Maine.


Most if not all of the walking route should be accessible. If there are cases where the route is not fully accessible, short accessible detours will be found.

Starting Location:

Tides Institute & Museum of Art’s StudioWorks building in downtown Eastport, Maine.

Ending Location:

Corner of Adams and Water Street, the northern extent of the Greatest fire of 1886 in Eastport, Maine.
Adams Street
Eastport, Maine 04631

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

Learn more about SDGs

  • 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities

May 4, 2024 / 10:00 AM

Led by: Hugh French
Organization: Tides Institute & Museum of Art
Duration: 90 minutes
City/Town: Eastport
County: Washington
Language(s): English