Happy Birthday Houlton – Cooper’s Hometown
When people ask me where I am from I have, for years, told them that I am from the not-so-warm-and-sunny end of the I-95.
It’s true – Houlton, Maine is one end of the I-95. The other end? Warm-and-sunny Tampa, Florida.
According to a Facebook group I am a part of, my hometown is celebrating a birthday today. It’s a big one… Not a major birthday, but a big one. Today, the town celebrates 190 years.
According to Wikipedia, the town was first settled in 1807 by Aaron Putnam and Joseph Houlton, but it was not incorporated until March 8th, 1831. Putnam and Houlton had made the move to the area from Massachusetts. While there are now few (or no) Houltons in the area, there are a lot of Putnams still inhabiting that part of Aroostook County.
At one point, the town was a stereotypical early-mid 20th century mill town. Additionally, it has always been a big farming town.
The history geeks, like me, will probably be interested in the role the town played in transatlantic communications and the war-time United States military.
As it was one of the eastern-most points in the United States, it was vital to early radio communications with other parts of the world. During World War One, the US Army had a listening post in Houlton. Then, in 1927, the town became part of AT&T’s New York – London phone connection. A three mile long, two mile wide, antenna provided one link in the connection.
In 1941, the US Army established Houlton Army Air Base a short distance from the US / Canada border. The base was used to avoid issues with the United States’ (at that time) neutrality in World War 2. British planes would land in Houlton and be towed by tractors owned by local farmers, into Canada. Later, when the base was closed, it was turned into a POW camp for captured German soldiers.
As it is the last stop on the I-5, the town gets a lot of through-traffic. Trucks carrying stuff to and from New Brunswick, tourists, and even some celebrities. The hotels near the I-95 ramps make a great place for musicians traveling to gigs in Canada to stay overnight.
Speaking of celebrities, the town is the birthplace of, or was once home to, several celebrities. These include former Maine Attorney General Michael Carpenter, Samantha Smith (child actor and peace activist), and Danny Wilde from The Rembrandts (they did the theme song to Friends).
If you're looking for a new place to visit, make the trip to Aroostook County and Houlton. But, make sure you do it in the summer, so you can have ice cream from Houlton Farms Dairy dairy bar.