Wiscasset, Maine

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Wiscasset, Maine
Village Square, Wiscasset, ME.jpg
Village square c. 1910
Seal of Wiscasset, Maine.png
Maine's Prettiest Village
Lincoln County Maine incorporated and unincorporated areas Wiscasset highlighted.svg
Location in Lincoln County and the state of Maine.
CountryUnited States
State Maine
County Lincoln County
Incorporated as PownalboroughFebruary 13, 1760
Incorporated as Wiscasset1802
  TypeTown Manager - Board of Selectmen
Dennis Simmons
  Total27.66 sq mi (71.64 km2)
  Land24.63 sq mi (63.79 km2)
  Water3.03 sq mi (7.85 km2)
 (2010) [2]
(2012 [3] )
  Density151.5/sq mi (58.5/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern)
  Summer (DST) UTC-4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 207
Website wiscasset.org

Wiscasset is a town in and the seat of Lincoln County, Maine, United States. [4] The municipality is located in the state of Maine's Mid Coast region. The population was 3,732 as of the 2010 census. Home to the Chewonki Foundation, Wiscasset is a tourist destination noted for early architecture.


The town is home to the Red's Eats restaurant.


In 1605, Samuel de Champlain is said to have landed here and exchanged gifts with the Indians. Situated on the tidal Sheepscot River, Wiscasset was first settled by Europeans in 1660. The community was abandoned during the French and Indian Wars, and the King Philip's War in 1675 and then resettled around 1730. In 1760, it was incorporated as Pownalborough after Colonial Governor Thomas Pownall. In 1802, it resumed its original Abenaki name, Wiscasset, which means "coming out from the harbor but you don't see where." [5]

During the Revolutionary War, the British warship Rainbow harbored itself in Wiscasset Harbor and held the town at bay until the town gave the warship essential supplies.

In 1775, Captain Jack Bunker supposedly robbed the payroll of a British supply ship, Falmouth Packet, that was stowed in Wiscasset Harbor. He was chased for days and caught on Little Seal Island. His treasure reportedly has never been found.

Because of the siege during the Revolutionary War, Fort Edgecomb was built in 1808 on the opposite bank of the Sheepscot to protect the town harbor. Wiscasset's prosperity left behind fine early architecture, particularly in the Federal style when the seaport was important in privateering. Two dwellings of the period, Castle Tucker and the Nickels-Sortwell House, are now museums operated by Historic New England.

The seaport became a center for shipbuilding, fishing and lumber. Wiscasset quickly became the busiest seaport north of Boston until the embargo of 1807 halted much trade with England. Most of Wiscasset's business and trade was destroyed. [5]

Maine was officially admitted as a state in 1820 with the passage of the Maine-Missouri Compromise. The town of Wiscasset was considered for the state capital, but lost the position because of its proximity to the ocean.

During the Civil War, Wiscasset had many of its residents that joined the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Its regiment was commended for fighting bravely at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Rail service to Wiscasset began with the Knox and Lincoln Railroad in 1871. [6] The Knox and Lincoln was merged into the Maine Central Railroad in 1901. Wiscasset was connected to the national rail network by the completion of the Carlton bridge over the Kennebec River in 1927. [7]

Nickels-Sortwell House, built 1807 Nickels Sortwell House, Wiscasset, Maine, USA 2012.jpg
Nickels-Sortwell House, built 1807

Wiscasset was the seaport terminal and standard gauge interchange of the 2-foot gauge Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway. Construction began in Wiscasset in 1894. Train service began in 1895 as the Wiscasset and Quebec Railroad. By 1913, the railroad operated daily freight and passenger service 43.5 miles north to Albion with an 11-mile freight branch from Weeks Mills to North Vassalboro.

Passengers and freight increasingly used highway transportation after World War I. Frank Winter bought the railroad about 1930 to move lumber from Branch Mills to his schooners Hesper and Luther Little. During the early 1930s the early morning train from Albion to Wiscasset and the afternoon train back to Albion carried the last 2-foot gauge railway post office (RPO) in the United States. A derailment of the morning train in Whitefield on June 15, 1933, terminated railroad operations before the schooners could be loaded with lumber for shipment to larger coastal cities. [8] The two schooners were abandoned in Wiscasset shortly after Winter's premature demise in 1936, and they eventually became tourist attractions. Over the next 62 years, the weathered vessels became widely photographed as they were visible from a bridge along U.S. 1 that runs by the town. Wiscasset officials finally removed the rotted remains in 1998, after a violent storm took out the final masts.


Wiscasset in literature

The books in the series in which Wiscasset plays an important part are Cordelia Underwood, or the Marvelous Beginnings of the Moosepath League; Mollie Peer, or the Underground Adventure of the Moosepath League; and Daniel Plainway, or the Holiday Haunting of the Moosepath League.

The climax of Reid's novel Peter Loon takes place in Wiscasset in 1801, using as its centerpiece of action an historic fomenting rebellion among back-country settlers and an actual escape that was successfully executed from the town's original jail.

In interviews, Reid has said that his having lived upriver in Sheepscott Village when young as well as tales of his father's childhood in 1930s Wiscasset has caused Wiscasset to “loom large” in his imagination.


From 1972 until 1996, Wiscasset was home to Maine Yankee, a pressurized water reactor on Bailey Point, and the only nuclear power plant in the state. The Maine Yankee nuclear power plant was decommissioned in 1996 and is inoperative. Since the closing of Maine Yankee, Wiscasset faced a severe loss in jobs, residents, and public school enrollment. In a high school graduation speech delivered by Bradley Whitaker, he stated, "The loss of those jobs changed our community, the surrounding towns and our school system. We've all had friends move away, our parents have had their taxes rise dramatically, enrollment has plummeted, we've watched teachers and administrators leave, programs and sports eliminated." [9] [10]

The town attempted to replace Maine Yankee with a gasification plant in 2007, but the plan subsequently failed due to a town vote. [11]

Wiscasset was also home of the Mason Station, a coal and steam-powered plant along the Sheepscot River south of town that first went online in 1941. The plant went offline in 1991. [12] The property is currently proposed for redevelopment as a mixed-use office, light-industrial, residential and retail complex. [13]

In 2008, the Chewonki Foundation announced plans for a tidal power plant along the Sheepscot River. [14] A permit was issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2009. [15] The project has not yet gone forward.

Rynel Inc., founded in 1973, developed and built processing equipment and hydrophilic polyurethane prepolymer products. The company was purchased by Mölnlycke Health Care company in 2010. In Jan 2014, the company announced its expansion plans for its Wiscasset, Maine manufacturing facility. [16]

National news

Main Street (U.S. Route 1) during tourist season in 2005 52811.jpg
Main Street (U.S. Route 1) during tourist season in 2005
Red's Eats, a famous Lobster takeout restaurant RedsEatsWiscasset.JPG
Red's Eats, a famous Lobster takeout restaurant

On May 1, 1991, a small fire erupted at the Maine Yankee Nuclear Power plant. The fire emitted a substantial amount of smoke which made it seem worse than it was. A video by photographer Keith Brooks was obtained by local media and was presented on NBC Nightly News. While the fire was not a significant threat, many locals believed it was a major concern for the environment, which caused several referendums to have the nuclear plant closed.

In 2009, the town lost a legal battle to reclaim an original copy of the Declaration of Independence [17] that was accidentally sold by the estate of the daughter of a former town official, Sol Holbrook. A Virginia court ruled the true owner was Richard L. Adams Jr., who paid $475,000 for the document in 2002. The State of Maine paid nearly $40,000 in legal fees. [17]

Red's Eats, a small takeout restaurant located by the Donald E. Davey Bridge on Route 1, has been featured in more than 20 magazines and newspapers, including USA Today and National Geographic and several major television network newscasts, including Sunday Morning on CBS and a report by Bill Geist. The restaurant has been reported to be "the biggest traffic jam in Maine." [18]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 27.66 square miles (71.64 km2), of which, 24.63 square miles (63.79 km2) of it is land and 3.03 square miles (7.85 km2) is water. [1] Wiscasset is drained by the Sheepscot River.


This climatic region is typified by large seasonal temperature differences, with warm to hot (and often humid) summers and cold (sometimes severely cold) winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Wiscasset has a humid continental climate, abbreviated "Dfb" on climate maps. [19]

Climate data for Wiscasset, Maine (Wiscasset Airport) 1991–2020 normals, extremes 1996–present
Record high °F (°C)66
Average high °F (°C)32.2
Daily mean °F (°C)22.1
Average low °F (°C)12.1
Record low °F (°C)−20
Average precipitation inches (mm)3.51
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)11.610.511.211.713.314.212.712.711.813.211.912.3147.1
Source: NOAA [20] [21]


Historical population
1810 2,083
1820 2,1382.6%
1830 2,2555.5%
1840 2,3142.6%
1850 2,3320.8%
1860 2,318−0.6%
1870 1,977−14.7%
1880 1,847−6.6%
1890 1,733−6.2%
1900 1,273−26.5%
1910 1,2871.1%
1920 1,192−7.4%
1930 1,186−0.5%
1940 1,2313.8%
1950 1,58428.7%
1960 1,80013.6%
1970 2,24424.7%
1980 2,83226.2%
1990 3,33917.9%
2000 3,6037.9%
2010 3,7323.6%
2014 (est.)3,672 [22] −1.6%
U.S. Decennial Census [23]

2010 census

As of the census [2] of 2010, there were 3,732 people, 1,520 households, and 993 families living in the town. The population density was 151.5 inhabitants per square mile (58.5/km2). There were 1,782 housing units at an average density of 72.4 per square mile (28.0/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 96.8% White, 0.5% African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.1% from other races, and 1.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.0% of the population.

There were 1,520 households, of which 27.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.1% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 34.7% were non-families. 28.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.79.

The median age in the town was 43.5 years. 19.7% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24.1% were from 25 to 44; 31.1% were from 45 to 64; and 16.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the town was 50.6% male and 49.4% female.

2000 census

Per the census [24] of 2000, there were 3,603 people, 1,472 households, and 972 families living in the town. The population density was 146.5 inhabitants per square mile (56.6/km2). There were 1,612 housing units at an average density of 65.6 per square mile (25.3/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 98.00% White, 0.31% Black or African American, 0.17% Native American, 0.50% Asian, 0.31% from other races, and 0.72% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.67% of the population.

The median income for a household in the town was $37,378, and the median income for a family was $46,799. Males had a median income of $31,365 versus $21,831 for females. The per capita income for the town was $18,233. About 6.9% of families and 12.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.2% of those under age 18 and 14.9% of those age 65 or over.

Sites of interest

Old Academy in 1936 Old Academy exterior Wiscasset Maine 1936.jpg
Old Academy in 1936

Notable people

Related Research Articles

Lincoln County, Maine County in Maine, US

Lincoln County is a county located in the U.S. state of Maine. As of the 2010 census, the population was 34,457. Its seat is Wiscasset. The county was founded in 1760 by the Massachusetts General Court from a portion of York County, Massachusetts and named after the English city Lincoln, the birthplace of Massachusetts Bay Provincial Governor Thomas Pownall.

Kennebec County, Maine County in Maine, US

Kennebec County is a county located in the South-central portion of the U.S. state of Maine. At the 2010 census, the population was 121,581. Its county seat is Augusta, the state capital. The county was established on February 20, 1799, from portions of Cumberland and Lincoln Counties. The name Kennebec comes from the Eastern Abenaki /kínipekʷ/, meaning "large body of still water, large bay."

Phillips, Maine Town in Maine, United States

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Albion, Maine Town in Maine, United States

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Vassalboro, Maine Town in Maine, United States

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Waterville, Maine City in Maine, United States

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Alna, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Alna is a town in Lincoln County, Maine, United States. The population was 709 at the 2010 census. Alna is home to the Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway Museum and is noted for its historic architecture, including the early mill village of Head Tide.

Boothbay, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Boothbay is a town in Lincoln County, Maine, United States. The population was 3,120 at the 2010 census. It includes the villages of East Boothbay and Trevett. The Boothbay region is a center of summer tourist activity, and a significant part of its population does not live there year-round. Five shipyards are located in the town, the largest of which is Washburn & Doughty.

Newcastle, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Newcastle is a town in Lincoln County, Maine, United States. The population was 1,752 at the 2010 census. The village of Newcastle is located in the eastern part of the town, on the Damariscotta River. Together with the village of Damariscotta linked by the Main Street bridge, they form the Twin Villages.

Farmington, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Farmington is a town in and the county seat of Franklin County, Maine, United States. As of the 2010 census, its population was 7,760. Farmington is home to the University of Maine at Farmington, the Nordica Memorial Auditorium, the Homestead, and the annual Farmington Fair.

Oakland, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Oakland is a town in Kennebec County in the U.S. state of Maine. The population was 6,240 at the 2010 census. Gateway to the Belgrade Lakes region, Oakland is 4 miles (6 km) west of Waterville and approximately 18 miles (29 km) north of Augusta, the state capital.

Westport Island, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Westport Island, formerly Westport, is a town in Lincoln County, Maine, United States. In the 19th century the island was known as Jeremysquam, a nickname islanders still use for it. The population was 718 at the 2010 census.

Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway Railway in Maine, USA

The Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway is a 2 ft narrow gauge railway. The line was operated as a for-profit company from 1895 until 1933 between the Maine towns of Wiscasset, Albion, and Winslow, but was abandoned in 1936. Today, about three miles (4.8 km) of the track in the town of Alna has been rebuilt and is operated by the non-profit Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway Museum as a heritage railroad offering passenger excursion trains and hauling occasional cargo.

Portland Company Rolling stock manufacturer

The Portland Company was established 10 November 1846 by John A. Poor and Norris Locomotive Works engineer Septimus Norris as a locomotive foundry to build railroad equipment for the adjacent Portland terminus of the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad connection between Portland, Maine and Montreal. The shops opened for business in October, 1847. Its first locomotive, the Augusta, emerged from the shops in July 1848 for delivery to the Portland, Saco & Portsmouth. Over the next several decades, the Company produced in its Fore Street facilities over 600 steam locomotives as well as 160 merchant and naval vessels, railcars, construction equipment, Knox automobiles, and the like. Portland Company built the engines of the civil war side-wheel gunboats Agawam and Pontoosuc. Taking into account its other products, the Company could lay claim to being one of the leading medium-to-heavy steel manufacturers in New England. The company ceased production in 1978.

Back River (Kennebec River tributary)

The Back River is a 16-mile-long (26 km) waterway in coastal Maine, USA, in the combined estuary of the Sheepscot and the Kennebec rivers. The Back River runs from Wiscasset on the Sheepscot to Georgetown on the Kennebec, intersecting another channel, the Sasanoa River, at Hockomock Bay.

Sheepscot River

The Sheepscot River is a 66-mile-long (106 km) river in the U.S. state of Maine. Its lower portion is a complex island estuary with connections to the Kennebec River downstream of Merrymeeting Bay.

Boothbay Harbor, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Boothbay Harbor is a town in Lincoln County, Maine, United States. The population was 2,165 at the 2010 census. During summer months, the entire Boothbay Harbor region is a popular yachting and tourist destination. The ZIP Code is 04538, and the community is served by the 633 telephone exchange in area code 207.

Wiscasset (CDP), Maine Census-designated place in Maine, United States

Wiscasset is a census-designated place (CDP) comprising the primary settlement in the town of Wiscasset in Lincoln County, Maine, United States. The population was 1,097 at the 2010 census, out of 3,732 people in the entire town. Wiscasset is the county seat of Lincoln County.

Fairfield, Maine Town in Maine, United States

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Searsport, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Searsport is an incorporated town and deep water seaport located at the confluence of the Penobscot River estuary and the Penobscot Bay immediately SE of Sears Island and Cape Jellison in Waldo County, Maine, United States. The population was 2,615 at the 2010 census. Searsport includes the village of North Searsport. The town is known as "the home of the famous sea captains" and the "Antique Capital of Maine".


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Further reading

Coordinates: 44°00′10″N69°39′57″W / 44.002808°N 69.665864°W / 44.002808; -69.665864