BANGOR, Maine — The historic Bangor House, one of the city’s architectural gems, welcomed many famous visitors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Ulysses S. Grant, Civil War general and the country’s 18th president, stayed at the hotel in 1871. Two other presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, spoke to crowds of spectators from the hotel’s portico in 1902 and 1910, respectively.
Author and abolitionist Frederick Douglass visited in 1872. Famed aviator Amelia Earhart did too, in 1933 and again the next year. Comedian Jack Benny stayed at the Bangor House in 1943 and recorded a national broadcast there.
In the midst of Bangor’s 175th birthday as an incorporated city, municipal and civic leaders have led a number of events that have celebrated the city’s rich history. The latest will transport residents and visitors to earlier eras when speeches were not captured by viral video but lived instead in spectators’ memories.
At 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23, at the Bangor House at 174 Main St., six residents will step into the roles of celebrities and will speak as they spoke.
Mayor Gerry Palmer will act as master of ceremonies of the re-enactment titled “Memories from the Portico, 1834-2009.” Palmer said the Bangor House, once a historic hotel and now home to senior citizens and disabled adults, happens to share the city’s birthday. It opened on Christmas Eve 1834.
“Over the years, a number of dignitaries, famous and infamous people have stayed there. In the old days, [they] used to speak from the portico on Main Street and people would come out to listen,” Palmer said.
Of the famous people who visited the Queen City and the Bangor House over the years, Palmer and other organizers settled on six to keep things manageable. Those chosen to portray the historical characters are all well-known in the city.
Businessman and politician W. Tom Sawyer, who has both the physical appearance and a penchant for all things military, will play Grant. City Engineer Jim Ring will use his deep, authoritative voice to bring Teddy Roosevelt to life.
Palmer said he was approached to play Taft. “God knows I have the girth, but I can’t do everything,” he said. Downtown business owner Chris Geaghan obliged to take on the role of the 27th president.
Robert Talbot, the first director of the Maine Human Rights Commission, will re-create Douglass. Bangor historian Dick Shaw will lend his personality to Jack Benny.
Finally, former mayor and current Bangor School Committee member Nichi Farnham was an obvious choice for Earhart. Farnham is a United States Air Force Academy graduate and has her own leather flying helmet, Palmer said.
In addition to speeches from each of the re-enactors, Sunday’s event will feature a professional juggler and an all-woman Dixieland band. Souvenir wooden coins will be given to audience members, while supplies last.
The Bangor House is owned by Aimco Property Management of Denver, which gave the city permission to use the building’s once-famous portico.
For information about the event, visit the city’s Web site: www.bangormaine.gov.