Presque Isle is the commercial center and largest city in Aroostook County, Maine, United States. The population was 9,692 at the 2010 census. The city is home to the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Northern Maine Community College, Northern Maine Fairgrounds, The Aroostook Centre Mall, and the Northern Maine Regional Airport.
Name and Incorporation
Originally known as Fairbanks for its founder Dennis Fairbanks, it was settled in 1828 in land that was unknown to be part of British North America (Canada) or the United States. The Aroostook War broke out in 1838 because of boundary disputes between the two countries, which were resolved in 1842 by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty. The township was incorporated from Plantations F, G and H on April 4, 1859 as Presque Isle, the French term for peninsula (presqu'île), as the courses of the Aroostook River and Presque Isle Stream form a peninsula here. In 1864, Fairmount Cemetery was established in the south of Presque Isle to accommodate Union soldiers returning from the Civil War. In 1883, the town of Maysville was annexed.
On January 1, 1940, Presque Isle was incorporated as a city.
Industry, agriculture and transportation
Lumbering and early industries
The first industry to form in Presque Isle was the lumber industry. By the 1880s industries included two lumbermills, a gristmill, a wool carding mill, a furniture factory, a carriage factory and a tinware factory. The community became the tradecenter of the Aroostook valley.
During the last 30 years of the 19th century, agriculture became important, and the entire county became noted for its production of potatoes. On October 9, 1851, the first Northern Maine Fair exhibition opened. A starch factory was opened in 1874, providing a ready market for local potatoes. In 1914 the Aroostook Farm was purchased as a Maine Agricultural Experiment Station.
A small airport was established in 1931. It was expanded within the decade and later assumed major military importance. The Presque Isle Air Force Base, in operation between 1941 and 1961, was a major departure point for U.S. fighter planes during World War II and the Korean War due to its relative proximity to Europe. The former base is now the Northern Maine Regional Airport at Presque Isle, the Northern Maine Community College, and the Skyway Industrial Park.
Colleges and Universities
In 1903, the Aroostook State Normal School offering a two-year teacher preparation program. In 1968, it was renamed the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Northern Maine Technical College was established in 1961, now Northern Maine Community College. The first students entered the college in 1963, while today it serves about 2000 students.
Presque Isle's Hospital
The first Presque Isle Hospital was established on April 8, 1912. Four physicians were affiliated with the hospital, whose dual aims were to serve the community and to provide a training school for nurses. The building was a white-frame structure, enlarged from a home under construction. The need and demand for the hospital increased so rapidly, that in 1921 a new 3-story brick hospital was dedicated. This hospital served for nearly four decades, when it, too proved inadequate. A major fundraising campaign was launched in the late 1950s. After a large donation was given by Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Wildes, the daughter of the late Senator Gould, the Arthur R. Gould Memorial Hospital was constructed and opened in 1960. The hospital has expanded and been modernized in recent years and in 1981 became a part of The Aroostook Medical Center.
The Double Eagle II
On August 11, 1978, the Double Eagle II was launched from a Presque Isle field carrying three passengers. It made the first successful transatlantic balloon crossing. In honor of the Double Eagle II, the city holds an annual celebration called The Crown of Maine Balloon Festival. The popular event includes balloon rides, plane tours, amateur photo contests and children’s fair rides. Sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and other local organizations, it is held in late August. The field from which the Double Eagle II lifted off now features a commemorative model balloon.
All American City
Presque Isle was named an "All American City" in 1966.
Historic Images of Presque Isle, Maine