Imagine Castine 175 years ago: an international port bustling with activity along the waterfront. Shipyards, wharves, warehouses, and storefronts lined the shore, with dozens of schooners and big square-rigged ships anchored in the harbor.
In the early 1800s Castine became a center for coastal and ocean-going trade, employing people in fishing, ship and boat building, rope manufacturing, United States Customs, and more. Ships constructed in Castine sent fish, lumber, and produce to ports in the American South. Those ships would then load a cargo of cotton and sail to Europe. European merchants would then send salt to Castine to cure fish caught in Maine and Canada. Many of the homes that line the streets of Castine today were built by merchants and ship captains that prospered from that trade.
The American Civil War and the increasing use of steamships ended Castine’s golden era of trade. The town’s economy shifted to light industry. By 1900 there were three rope factories, a sardine factory, and several brickyards along the shore.
Today the students of Maine Maritime Academy train at the waterfront. Visitors and residents also enjoy fishing, boating, and kayaking in the harbor.