Capitol Park

One of the crowning jewels in the State of Maine is the beautiful landscape between the State House and the Kennebec River known as Capitol Park.

It is the earliest known, consciously designed public ground in Maine. The spatial structures of Capitol Park was established in 1827, the same year in which the Legislature approved a permanent seat of the government be established in Augusta.

The act approved on February 24, 1827, placed the sum of $500 at the disposal of the Governor and Council "to enable them to cause such a lot as may be chosen to be improved, fenced and ornamented with forest trees."

The final selection was a 34-acre lot on the west bank of the Kennebec at the head of tide 40 miles inland, in the town of Augusta. Charles Bulfinch, Architect of the Capitol, proposed a site plan for the immediate Capitol grounds designating them on a conical elevation at the northwestern corner of the lot with access roads.

The balance of the property, a rectangle of approximately 20 acres, was fenced off to keep out cattle and planted with rows of forest trees from the Capitol site to the River.

The intent of the design was to create a dignified setting for viewing the State Capitol Building along with other public functions. That role is still being carried on today.

In looking back, the Park has survived many historic uses. During the Civil War it was used as a camp site and parade ground. After the war the land was leased for farming, but by 1878 the site was restored to its former appearance.

In 1851 the railroad bisected the lower end of the Park, a use which has been abandoned. Then in 1920 Frederick Law Olmsted's firm was commissioned by Governor Miliken to prepare a plan for the Capitol grounds, Capitol Park, the adjoining Driving Park to the south and neighboring Blaine House grounds.

According to the plan, Capitol park would be used passively; and the adjoining municipal park would provide opportunity for activity, thus joining the two parks into one.

Although the plan was never fully implemented, the Olmstead concept has set a course for which there is a strong following. With that awareness, plans are underway to restore and preserve this hidden inheritance and to encourage wide spread use by the citizens of Maine.