PORTLAND, Maine — The cannons are back and the dignitaries are coming as Fort Allen prepares to celebrate its bicentennial Sept. 19-20.
On Sept. 2, two restored Civil War-era field pieces were returned to the park on Eastern Promenade near Fore Street. On Friday, a gun salvaged from the USS Maine, which blew up in Havana on Feb. 15, 1898, also will be returned to the park.
The explosion of the USS Maine triggered the Spanish-American War, which ended with America taking possession of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippine Islands from Spain.
On Sept. 19, George Dahms, author of “1812, The Navy’s War,” and Maine State Historian Earle Shettleworth will take part in a 90-minute discussion of the War of 1812 and the city and state role in the war. The program begins at 7 p.m. at the Maine Jewish Museum, 267 Congress St.
On Sept. 20, the park bicentennial celebration will begin with a 10 a.m. moment of silence in commemoration of the American soldiers buried at the War of 1812 cemetery on the Eastern Promenade, followed by a procession to the fort led by Marine Corps League of Southern Maine.
At 11 a.m., the celebration at the five-acre park commences. Gov. Paul LePage and Mayor Michael Brennan will speak, salutes will be fired from the restored guns and Chandlers Military Band will play.
Concluding remarks will be made by Diane Davison, executive director of Friends of Eastern Promenade, the group spearheading a $1.5 million park renovation that began about a year ago.
Funding from public and private sources funded new benches, a restored loop around the bandstand and bandstand improvements.
The field piece carriages had been rotting, according to a Friends newsletter, and have been restored using aluminum carriages “that will closely resemble the original wooden carriages and be far better suited to Maine winters.”
The cannons are being placed on pads simulating the original wood mounts and positioned for historical accuracy.
The fort site had been used for artillery placements during the Revolutionary War, but was more formally constructed when America went to war with Great Britain for a second time in 1812. The fort was name in honor of Revolutionary War hero Gen. Ethan Allen.
The War of 1812 was fought along the Atlantic Ocean, Great Lakes and in Canada and New Orleans through 1815, and spurred talk of secession by New England states unhappy about the disruption of trade.
In August 1814, British troops captured Washington, D.C., and burned the city, forcing the American government to flee. A land battle and subsequent bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The bicentennial celebration at Fort Allen culminates a labor of love for the Friends.
“This is a sacred landscape,” Davison said in July. “We’re happy to be restoring it to the level of integrity it deserves.”