Skowhegan is found in Somerset County, Maine; in fact, it is the County Seat.
It was the Native Americans, the Abenaki, who gave Skowhagen its name, which means “watching place.”
Although there were periods of peace with the incoming settlers, there were also periods of conflict. The Native Americans were finally driven from the region in the 4th Ango-Abenaki War and settlers took their place. Today’s Abenaki reservations are in New England and Canada.
Skowhegan became an agricultural region producing cereals and potatoes, as well as wool. Initially called Canaan when it was incorporated in 1788, the Native American name was adopted early in the 19th century.
Gradually, Showhagen developed a manufacturing base, with wool, shoes, and paper important to the economy until the last half-century.
To prepare for your visit to the town, here are the 15 Best Things to do in Skowhegan, with historians certainly well catered for.
1. Skowhegan Historic District
The 19th-century commercial heart of Skowhegan was added to the National Register of Historic Places almost 40 years ago. It is bordered by the Kennebec River and included many architectural treasures which have all found modern-day use.
If you start at the Town Hall in the west, you will enjoy Commercıal and Water Streets as you head to Madison Avenue. It is known as the Flat Iron District, and there are 38 buildings regarded as historically important within this small area. The Municipal Building is one of over 1,000 buildings in Maine designed by John Calvin Stevens.
2. Skowhegan History House Museum & Research Center
Head to Elm Street, and you will find a Greek Revival Cottage that will take you back to life in Skowhegan in the 19th century. It is filled with antiques and furniture from the past.
In 1936, town records from 1783 were stored here, including many family histories, old newspapers, and the Civil War Collection of Alexander Crawford Jr. The gardens are an additional attraction and include plants that would have featured in local gardens back in the 19th century.
3. Skowhegan Indian Monument
The tallest Indian in the world is a creation of Bernard Langlais, a renowned local sculptor. It was erected in 1969 to mark the 150th Anniversary of the State of Maine in 1969. Carved out of pine, the Indian clutches a fish trap and is 62 feet high, standing on a 20-foot base.
The inscription pays tribute to the Abenaki Indians. Unfortunately, the Maine climate has not been kind to the monument, which deteriorated badly until a restoration project in 2014 restored it to its former glory.
4. Yankee Woodlot Trail
You will get a good idea of the terrain and vegetation of Maine as a whole if you take this trail, which begins in County Drive at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Office. Pick up a map and head off. Suitable footwear is advisable because parts of the trail are slightly uneven.
The trail is mainly wooded, with black cherry, hemlock, spruce and apple along the way. You will encounter plenty of plant species, a pond, and some quotes from poets and philosophers that relate to woodland regions, hiking, and enjoying the great outdoors.
5. Coburn Park
Governor Abner Coburn donated this piece of land in Water Street, Downtown Skowhegan to the town in 1885. With more than 100 different species of trees and shrubs, it also boasts a lily pond with a fountain and a gazebo. It is a great place to relax without leaving the heart of Skowhegan.
A number of heritage monuments tell the history of the town as you walk through the park, which is also used for concerts on Sundays throughout the summer.
6. Margaret Chase Smith Library & Museum
Margaret Chase Smith was a native of Skowhegan, and this facility remembers her contribution to national politics. She was the first woman to sit in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In addition, she was nominated for US President at a national convention.
Visitors to this place in Norridgewock Avenue will find plenty to interest them covering her 32 years in Congress. They include a large number of photographs, general memorabilia, honors she received, and political papers.
With the town’s name associated with fish, it is not surprising that visitors to Skowhegan have the chance to enjoy fishing while in town. The freshwater species that you will come across include charr, whitefish, largemouth and smallmouth bass, salmon, brook and lake trout, and perhaps pike.
The most popular fishing spot locally is just to the West – Four Ponds Public Reserved Land with Sabbath Day and Little Swift River Ponds to the east of Mooselookmeguntic Lake.
8. Arnold Trail Park
Colonel Benedict Arnold led more than 1,000 men to Quebec in an attempt to take the British fort in 1775. His route was via Skowhegan Falls and Skowhegan Island. Although he was ultimately unsuccessful, his journey is remembered on a plaque in Western Avenue.
It was placed on the Island in 1912 by the Daughters of the American Revolution. A second one was later set on Route 2 East on the way to Canaan. Both are indeed worth a visit by those interested in early American history.
9. Dudley’s Corner School House
This was the first school building in what is now Skowhegan. It was constructed in the 1790s when the community needed a central location for educating the children of farmers. Subsequently, a new school was built in the 1830s, with the project completed in 1836 at the cost of just under $500.
In use right up until 1921, a decade later, the Daughters of the American Revolution (Eunice Farnsworth Chapter) placed a plaque on the building, so history was not forgotten.
10. Lakewood Theater
This is the State of Maine Theater, and you will find it on the shores of Wesserunsett Lake. It is amongst the oldest summer theaters in the State, and over the years, many international celebrities have appeared there.
They include Humphrey Bogart, John Travolta, and Mama Cass. Performances are restricted to the weeks of summer, but if you are in the area from May onwards, you should check to see the program of events.
11. Bigelow Brewing
Maine is known for its craft beer, so when you are in Skowhegan, you will have the chance to sample what the town has to offer.
Bigelow Brewing on Bigelow Hill Road has some very imaginative names for its brands, such as Dementia Dog or Jailbreak – a chocolate chili stout at 7.2%. The brewery is an old horse barn. Each Friday, you can enjoy live music, and wood-fired pizza washed down with whichever brews you select. Local products are used exclusively, and the locals certainly seem to enjoy the brews.
12. Tessier Farm
If you are looking for a lovely day out for the family, this farm is certainly a place to consider. Featuring a farm store that sells everything from dairy products to meats, honey, and jams, it is much more than just a shop.
You will see a wide range of free range livestock that is kid-friendly – everything from rabbıts and ducks to poultry and pigs. The herd of cows is not large but supplies plenty of fresh milk.
The farm is entering its 20th year, with the store open to the public for 15 of those years.
13. Strand Cinema
This lovely old cinema in Court Street has been open for generations. Some seniors talk about going there when they were just small children. It does not seem to have lost its charm, even if these days it has been thoroughly modernized.
You can expect to see recent releases, and it is a great place to go when the weather is not at its best. Daytıme screenings ensure you can keep the kids amused on a wet day. Don’t tell them about the ghost stories of the place when the lights go out though!
14. Ken’s Family Restaurant
Ken’s in Madison Avenue is a place where you will find something for everyone on the menu. There is plenty of parking, and it is handicap-friendly.
A range of salads, the best of Skowhegan seafood or Maine meat, pasta, soups, burgers, and combos are all there. Seafood is extremely popular and quite rightly so. Vegetarians are well catered for. The dessert menu is certainly tempting if you have enough room.
Ken’s sells alcohol and runs a takeaway service as well
15. Laurel Tree Massage
After a busy day, some people like the idea of a massage to help them unwind. This place in Water Street offers some different treatments and also the chance to learn a little about the techniques used.
Apart from the traditional deep tissue massage using the hands, you can book massage cupping,’’ which uses glasses to help relieve pressure on parts of the body. Alternatively, Ashiatsu Massage involves the therapist using his or her feet to apply the requisite pressure on the body.