By Kim Smith,
Resource Development and Public Information Officer, City of Presque Isle
Residents of Presque Isle are very proud of the community with its outstanding outdoor
recreation and happy to share its interesting history with visitors. Presque Isle is the largest city
in Aroostook County and is considered the hub of the county with a regional airport, large
hospital, and three institutions of higher learning. But perhaps what makes Presque Isle so
unique for a small, rural community in geographically remote northern Maine is the large
number of direct ties to State, National and International history.
Internationally, Presque Isle has several claims to fame. One of two incidents that took place in
northern Maine and acted as catalysts to The Aroostook War (1839-1842) took place here in
Maysville (annexed by Presque Isle in 1883) and was known as “The Incident of Arnold’s Cow”.
Secondly, in 1937, Charles Phair wrote Atlantic Salmon Fishing acclaimed by sportsmen as one
of the most complete records of salmon fishing ever presented. The book is still renowned
world-wide today as one of the best, authoritative writings on the subject. Charles’ house is
now Governor’s Restaurant. It is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Sites as it
is a Gustav Stickley home, one of the only known Stickley homes still in existence in Maine
today. Stickley was the founder of the Arts and Crafts movement in architecture. To be
considered a Stickley house, it must have been built with plans directly from the Stickley
factory. Family descendants still have the plans in their possession today.
During the Cold War, SNARK Missiles, the United States’ first Intercontinental Nuclear Ballistic
Missiles, were kept in Presque Isle from 1958 – 1961 in the six large metal hangars along what
is now known as Missile Street. The SNARK was never fired in hostile action thankfully. The
missile, a land launched weapon, measured 69 feet in length, had a wingspan of 42 feet, a range of
6300 miles, a ceiling of 60000 feet, and traveled at Mach .94. The range was one of the primary
determinants of base location. If the SNARK were to be launched from Presque Isle and flown over the
North Pole, the USSR was approximately 6,000 miles away. Behind each of the silo hangars are two
circular concrete launch pads, 16 feet in depth.
Lastly, the Double Eagle II, the first successful transatlantic balloon flight, lifted off from
Presque Isle in 1978. This event put Presque Isle on the map in the 1970s as it made the cover
of Sports Illustrated, Time and Reader’s Digest. A monument to the flight may be found on the
On a national level, Clarence Keegan who played baseball in the 1936 Olympics later went on to
serve as the Assistant Principal of Presque Isle High School; the 1959 National Christmas Tree
came from a farm here in Presque Isle marking the first time the national tree came from east
of the Mississippi and from private land; and the city has two buildings currently listed on the
National Register of Historic Landmarks (the US Post Office at 23 Second Street and the former
Presque Isle National Bank Building at 422 Main Street).
For state history, there are four facts of note. The American Civil War had a huge impact on our
community with roughly half of our men leaving to fight and a third of those dying during the
war. Presque Isle’s Civil War Monument in the historic Fairmount Cemetery is one of the
earliest of Maine’s 147 monuments. Presque Isle Historical Society has many amazing Civil War
artifacts in its collections including an officer’s sword, which can be viewed at the Maysville
Museum. Other significant facts include: Aroostook State Park was established as Maine’s first
state park in 1939; Bill Haskell became the first Director of Recreation in the state when he
accepted that position for the City; and George Noyes established the first plumbing code in the
state of Maine.
Presque Isle is very pleased to welcome BikeMaine to the area and can’t wait to show you