Opening ceremonies were held under sunny skies on the steps in front of City Hall. Speakers included, from left: U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), former city councilor and state legislator and current business owner Ruth Foster and City Council Chairman Gary Fortier.
Opening ceremonies were held under sunny skies on the steps in front of City Hall. Speakers included, from left: U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), former city councilor and state legislator and current business owner Ruth Foster and City Council Chairman Gary Fortier

ELLSWORTH — The city kicked off a weeklong celebration of its 250th birthday Saturday under sunny skies with speeches, songs and a salute to the citizens across the years who have made Ellsworth what it is today.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) served as keynote speaker for the event. She recounted how the “bold pioneers who settled here in 1763” were attracted by large swaths of timber near fast-moving water with access to the ocean.

The sawmills and shipping industry that followed “played a key role in Maine’s economic growth,” Collins said.

She recounted the challenges the city has faced and overcome — floods, fires and tough economic times — but forecast that the city’s proud history means more good things are in store for it in years to come.

“We can be confident that an even more glorious future awaits her citizens,” she told an enthusiastic crowd gathered in front of the steps of City Hall.

Collins also said Ellsworth is no longer just a gateway to

Acadia National Park, as it was seen for many years, but rather a destination in and of itself — "an essential part of the Acadia experience," she said.

Collins presented an official U.S. Senate coin and a flag that flew over the Capitol building to City Council Chairman Gary Fortier for inclusion in a time capsule to be opened at the city’s next big birthday bash, decades from now.

Representatives of U.S. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) spoke and offered birthday well wishes.

"I compliment all of you," said Elizabeth Schneider MacTaggart, representing King. "I know that the next 250 years are going to be even more wonderful."

City Manager Michelle Beal read a letter from Governor Paul LePage congratulating the city on its milestone.

State Sen. Brian Langley (R-Hancock County) and Rep. Louie Luchini (D-Ellsworth) presented a joint Legislative sentiment recognizing Ellsworth — now Maine’s fastest growing city, Langley noted — for reaching the quarter-millennium mark.

Like other speakers, Langley recounted parts of the city’s history and said it was "truly an honor" to be part of the celebration.

Langley, who owns and operates the Union River Lobster Pot on South Street, also mixed a bit of humor in with his comments while recounting the history.

He noted the land his restaurant sits on sold for $4,000 in 1858, and then — in a different economic climate — sold for the same price 100 years later in 1958.

"I’m really in high hopes that when I sell it I’ll get more than $4,000 for it," he said.

Former city councilor, mayor, state representative and state senator and current business owner Ruth Foster was the final speaker, and she shared memories of her childhood in Ellsworth.

Water Street in the 1930s and 1940s, she said, was home to people of many nationalities and ethnic backgrounds — "a melting pot, a United Nations of sorts," she said.

She recalled building "castles, walls, houses and roads" with bricks from an old brick foundry behind her house. In school one year, she learned lessons from Cordelia Stanwood about observing the natural world.

Foster closed her remarks with a heartfelt sentiment.

"Happy birthday to a great city, becoming better every day," she said. "Thank you."

Music featured prominently in Saturday’s ceremony. The Fletcher’s Landing Philharmonic Orchestra, accompanied by several local vocalists, performed the "Star Spangled Banner," "God Bless America," "America the Beautiful" and a local number titled "Ellsworth, Fair Ellsworth."

Band leader Mike Povich said the song was penned by Samuel A. Brocato in 1932, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and "not played very frequently" in years since.

A stone marker, donated by the Dunn family and set into the steps in front of City Hall, was formally dedicated Saturday. The inscription reads "With Fondness For The Past & Eyes Toward The Future."

Other sestercentennial events filled the weekend and offered something for everyone. The Lions and Lioness clubs sponsored a family fun day at Knowlton Park, while out on the Winkumpaugh Road the Telephone Museum held an open house to show off its collection of historical telephones and related equipment.

Classic rock band Whoopy Kat performed at Knowlton Park Saturday night, and an open house at Shep’s Restored Antique Trucks on Bucksport Road Sunday afternoon offered visitors a glimpse at vintage Mack trucks.

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