December 03, 2019
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The park where people have been saying goodbye to the sun for almost 100 years

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
A woman walks a small dog by Fort Sumner Park atop Munjoy Hill in Portland on Tuesday. The 1.25-acre park is a popular place to view sunsets.

PORTLAND, Maine — It happens most clear days. As dusk approaches, people start wandering into Fort Sumner Park atop Munjoy Hill to watch the sun go down.

Dog walkers, parents with strollers and lovers, hand-in-hand, all appreciate the view. Cameras and phones come out. Kisses are exchanged. Mostly, folks stare west with their own silent thoughts.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Portland is lit by the failing sun on Tuesday as a woman leans in to kiss another at Fort Sumner Park in Portland on Tuesday. The park's views are protected by a city ordinance restricting building height below.

From the grassy, 1.25-acre park on North Street, City Hall, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Back Cove, Interstate 295 and Kennedy Park are all visible. So is Maine Medical Center. On clear days, Mt. Washington appears in the distance. The peak is 100 miles from town.

In 2017, friends of the park banded together and halted a proposed condo that would have blocked the beloved view. They brought their fight to City Hall and the council voted unanimously to limit any development that would impede the panoramic lookout.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
A woman (top photo) takes a photo with her phone at Fort Sumner Park on Munjoy Hill in Portland on Tuesday. The view (middle photo) of the city from the park is popular with sunset watchers. A dog (bottom photo) watches the park instead of the setting sun.

Sunset gawkers have come to the park to see the orb’s final, golden rays for almost a century. The city bought the land and created an official park in 1934. It’s namesake military installation, Fort Sumner, was originally built on the site in 1794. It kept watch over Back Cove while Fort Allen — which is now also a park — looked out over Portland Harbor. A trench system connected the two forts. It was named for then Massachusetts Gov. Increase Sumner.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
A lone woman admires the view from Fort Sumner Park in Portland as the sun goes down on Tuesday. The park is well known for its western views of the city. On a clear day, Mt. Washington can be seen.

The fort was abandoned after the War of 1812. In the 1820s it was the site of the city’s first gymnasium. Nothing of the fitness center or military installation remain. Soldiers no longer patrol the battlements, on the lookout for approaching enemies. Instead, Portlanders keep watch on the western sky as another day fades into a golden dusk.

 



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