The town of Pejepscot was first settled in 1628 and designed in such a way that there was open ground either side before the forest line, making it safe from ambush. It was over a century later that it was officially incorporated as Brunswick.
It was a thriving seaport with the nearby Androscoggin River Falls providing the power for industry – lumber, shipbuilding, textiles and more.
Harriet Beeches Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” while living in Brunswick in 1851, so you can easily imagine that it is a town with much to offer the visitor. Several buildings in Brunswick have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The population of Brunswick today is around 20,000. Here are the 15 Best Things to do in Brunswick, Cumberland County, Maine.
1. Harriet Beecher Stowe House
It is hardly surprising that the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, a fierce opponent of slavery, is one of the buildings listed as a National Historic Landmark. It was built in the early 1800s and designated as an Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site.
It is one of three houses bearing her name, with the one in Hartford, Connecticut – where she died – the most famous. However, Brunswick’s citizens are rightly proud of this house in the town which she rented for just a few years and wrote her famous novel. Her writing room is open for the public to see.
2. Bowdoin College
Stowe’s House is owned by the Bowdoin College, named after a former Governor of Massachusetts – James Bowdoin II – a French Huguenot who died just a few years before the college opened.
It was founded in 1794 and has an impressive list of former pupils. Set in 200 acres, it has rightly earned a reputation for its extensive range of courses – including impressive language and literature courses. Visitors are welcome to walk in its lovely grounds and view the impressive architecture.
3. Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Art lovers are certain to enjoy the great collection of paintings in the Museum of Art; there is much more as well, including letters and sketches.
The work of a famous 19th-century American artist, Winslow Homer, is strongly featured. He initially worked as a commercial illustrator but his love of the sea as a subject for painting has established him among America’s greatest artists. His Civil War work is also impressive, whether as sketch, watercolor or oil.
4. Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum
This museum completely dedicated to the Arctic is named after two former pupils of Bowdoin College who later became Arctic explorers, Robert E. Peary, and Donald B. MacMillan.
The college’s fascination with the Arctic began in the 1860s, with the explorers going on different expeditions early in the 20th century.
The museum chronicled their work and that of others. It opened in 1967 and includes equipment, photographs, valuable papers, and natural history specimens. Subsequently, an endowment has allowed a research facility to be opened as well.
5. Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum
The former home of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain – an American college professor and Unionist Brigadier General in the American Civil War – is now a lovely museum. It was built in the 1820s and home to Chamberlain thirty years later.
Over the years, the original building was extended. It was bought by the Pejepscot Historical Society in 1983 and within months opened as the Museum, gradually obtaining more and more exhibits. The society expects to acquire even more in the years to come.
Surprisingly, Chamberlain is not remembered on the Gettysburg battlefield in the Military Park, despite being regarded as one of the heroes for the Unionists in that famous battle.
The omission has been remedied by the installation of a statue of Joshua Chamberlain opposite his former home, in the grounds of the college where he taught.
6. Thomas Point Beach
If you and the family want a lovely day out, Thomas Point Beach should be high on your list. The sandy beach looks out over a nice bay with play areas available for children. In addition, there are several acres of land with lawns, pine groves and places to play a variety of ball games.
A camping area allows people to spend a few nights. You might just want to have a picnic, but this is also a place where others have decided to hold wedding receptions and other special events. The annual State Highland Games are held here too.
7. Androscoggin Swinging Bridge
In 1892, it was decided to build a pedestrian bridge to link Brunswick to Topsham across the Androscoggin River. All these years later, there is a voluntary, non-profit organization who have made it their job to ensure this historic bridge is maintained to the highest standard. It was closed briefly for renovation and repair in 2006.
In its time, this bridge played a vital role in the community and its economic welfare. It remains in full working order into its 13th decade.
8. Brunswick Town Commons
Maine is a beautiful state, with plenty for those who enjoy the great outdoors. People in Brunswick enjoy walking the Town Commons trail. At a length of around 6 miles, it starts near Bowdoin College.
Small loops off the walk mean that no one has to walk the whole six miles to enjoy the lovely surroundings.
The terrain is varied with pine heath and small ponds. There are markings for those new to Brunswick, as well as a map that can be found at the trailhead in the kiosk.
9. Skolfield-Whittier House
It is almost 100 years since this house – which belonged to three generations of a Brunswick family – has been occupied. It has changed little since it was closed and a lack of heating is immediately apparent.
The family included a sea captain, Alfred Skolfield, and two medical people, pediatrician Alice Whittier, and forensic pathologist Frank Whittier.
Built in the 1850s, you will see paperwork dating back to those days and the spices that were in the pantry when it closed. You can take a tour of its 17 rooms and imagine what life was like for the upper middle class all those years ago.
10. First Parish Church
Churches were the heart of every early settlement in Maine; this one was built three centuries ago in 1717. Without a church and minister, a settlement could not be incorporated.
Brunswick’s development into a thriving economy was arguably guided by the church. The stance of opposition to slavery developed strongly here; Harriet Beecher Stowe sat in Pew 23 when she was inspired to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Among the famous people known to have spoken there are President Taft, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr.
11. Pejepscot Museum & Research Center
The Pejepscot Historical Society is particularly active in efforts to preserve Brunswick’s rich history. The collection of artifacts, valuable writings, and exhibits make the Pejepscot Museum and Research Center somewhere you must visit while in Brunswick.
The society itself dates back to 1888; it’s the fourth oldest Historical Society in Maine. Today’s museum is located in the building next to Skolfield-Whittier House and acts as the society’s headquarters.
12. Pine Grove Cemetery
Bowdoin College donated two acres of land in 1820 for the establishment of this cemetery. The proviso was that it could not be used for anything else. Before then, there was a small cemetery area with the original parish church.
It opened in 1825 with the bodies of two former Bowdoin College Presidents reburied there.
The oldest graves date back to 1794. Today, with the expansion beyond the original two acres, there are almost 2,500 gravestones. Several notable people are buried in Pine Grove, including a Congressional Medal of Honor Civil War hero, a forensic medicine pioneer, the parents of a First Lady and two Maine governors.
13. Brunswick Golf Club
The local golf club which was founded in 1898 welcomes visitors, who can pay a green fee for the day.
Whilst in modern-day terms it is not especially long at just over 6,600 yards, it is both challenging and picturesque. It is a founding member of the Maine Golf Association and has hosted a number of the state’s major competitions, including the Maine Amateur Championships, the Maine Senior Amateur, and the Maine Women’s Amateur.
Carts are available but the club has earned a reputation as one of the easiest courses around for walking the 18 holes.
14. Maine Bass Fishing Guide Service
Many of the citizens of Maine enjoy fishing and there is a local company only too happy to welcome visitors to Brunswick who want to try their hand.
This service runs guided trips in search of Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass in Maine’s rivers and lakes. Maine’s waters are all well-stocked and with experienced guides, there is every chance of your catching some fine specimens.
All the equipment you may need is available for hire as part of the service if required, and even a complete novice should have an enjoyable day.
15. Wyler Gallery
Most people on holiday do a little shopping looking for souvenirs and presents for family and friends. If you are in Brunswick, the Wyler Gallery has proved popular with holidaymakers over the years.
There are three rooms, with items ranging from things for the home and personal use to houseware, toys, clothing, jewelry, and gifts a little out of the ordinary.
You are more than welcome to browse without any pressure and return a second time if you are undecided.