September 22, 2018
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Bangor had some pretty futuristic ideas in this 1965 city planning booklet

By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff
Updated:

Staff in Bangor’s planning department this week stumbled across several spiral-bound copies of a 1965 booklet that laid out the city’s urban renewal plan.

Urban renewal — a term that today seems like a dirty word in Bangor — ushered in an era of dramatic change to the city. Some of the ideas proposed in the comprehensive plan were good and did, in fact, happen, like the removal of blighted, unsafe housing stock and the cleanup of the Kenduskeag Stream. But the larger effort to modernize the city’s infrastructure also led to some regrettable decisions, like the demolition of historic buildings such as the old City Hall and Union Station.

According to the comprehensive plan, there were a number of other ideas from the urban renewal era that never happened — and probably were never going to, judging by how grandiose and futuristic they were. Some of the proposed projects for the city under urban renewal were downright “Jetsons”-esque. Here are some examples.

Bangor’s Epcot

A futuristic-looking sketch proposal featuring a monorail in the City of Bangor’s urban renewal comprehensive plan, published in 1965. [City of Bangor Planning Department]

We’re not sure exactly what this is, or where it would have gone, but it looks a bit like things you’d find in Epcot at Disneyworld. Of particular note is the geodesic dome and what appears to be a Monorail. The only things missing are the robots and flying cars. Why, there’s nothin’ on Earth like a genuine bona-fide electrified six-car monorail!

Futuristic parking

A parking structure proposal in the City of Bangor’s urban renewal comprehensive plan, published in 1965. [City of Bangor Planning Department]

Look at this fancy parking structure that was never built, complete with well-manicured grassy area and neatly-trimmed hedges. Imagine this in place of the parking lot on Harlow Street.

A sleek new downtown

Manicured streets and sidewalks were the feature of this proposal, published in 1965. [City of Bangor Planning Department]

Downtown improvement was on the minds of these city planners, clearly, and these sketches of pleasant, tree-lined sidewalks and cars gently rolling down the street evoked that. Then again, this could also be an image of a dramatically re-imagined Norumbega Parkway and Hamlin Park, with the Kenduskeag Stream running along the side, filled with some rather curious looking vehicles.

Water taxis (we think)

Water taxis have circulated as an idea for Bangor improvement for decades. [City of Bangor Planning Department]

Water taxis? According to Tanya Emery, Bangor’s economic development director, the idea of water taxis in Bangor have been around for decades, with the idea that they’d ferry people up and down the Kenduskeag Stream and the Penobscot River. We’re not totally certain that’s what these are, however — they could be electric trams. Possibly hovercraft? Regardless, these mystery vehicles are nowhere near as puzzling as another thing proposed for the city.

It’s not too late for a zoo!

Could Bangor be the site for northern Maine’s most popular zoo? [City of Bangor Planning Department]

A municipal zoo. Yes, that’s right: a zoo. Filled with what appears to be ostriches, zebras, water buffalo and other birds, which are separated from several lions from something that appears to be a pit or moat. As it says in the report itself: “Serious consideration should be given to the development of a public zoo in Bangor to serve not only the city and the eastern and northern Maine region, but as a prime tourist attraction.” There’s still time, Bangor. Though we’d imagine there are more pressing matters at hand at this juncture.

The future of yesterday

A never-used logo for the City of Bangor, circa 1965. [City of Bangor Planning Department]

Finally, what screams what the future looked like to people in the early 1960s more than a cool, space age logo? The atomic look of the logo for this comprehensive plan stands in contrast a bit to the accompanying scenes of domesticity, and of a hunter shooting at a bird. But whatever. To the future that never happened!

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