May 31, 1820: The Maine Legislature convenes its first session at the original Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland. The session lasts until June 28.

The legislators meet there because the state offices in a nearby two-story Federal-style structure at the corner of Congress and Myrtle streets don’t have enough space to accommodate the House and Senate sessions.

William King, painted in 1806 by Gilbert Stuart. Image courtesy of the Maine State Museum, Maine State House Portrait Collection 72.19.93

Gov. William King opens his June 2 message to the legislators with this observation: “The political connexion, which had so long subsisted between Massachusetts and Maine being dissolved, it is a source of much satisfaction to reflect, that the measures, adopted for its accomplishment, have effected the object in the most friendly manner.”

With that breezy remark, the governor seems to paper over 35 years of pitched battles about political and religious differences, animosity about Maine statehood being dependent on allowing slavery in Missouri, resentment about how Massachusetts was unable to defend its Maine territory effectively during the War of 1812, and the impediment once posed by customs duties imposed by the recently repealed federal Coasting Law, which would have been a heavy post-statehood burden for Maine businesses selling goods in other states.

The state government’s sojourn in Portland is temporary. After competition among a variety of places to host the new capital, the Legislature passes and the governor signs in 1827 a bill selecting Augusta as the capital. The government is directed to begin operations there on Jan. 1, 1832.

Arguments in Augusta’s favor, according to historian James North, include the fact that it is more centrally located in the state, its inland location would make public records and public offices more secure in the event of war, and that by moving to a small town, “the business of legislation might be carried on with less embarrassment and more purity than in a large town.”

May 31, 2011: Brunswick Naval Air Station is decommissioned, 68 years after it opened in the middle of World War II on the site of a former municipal airfield.

From left, Ian Canavan, Jim Backman and Bill Price, firefighters with the Brunswick Naval Air Station, take down the flag at the base for the last time during a disestablishment ceremony on May 31, 2011. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

The closing leaves New England without an active-duty military airfield. Navy patrol aircraft, which monitored the Soviet Union’s submarine activity in the North Atlantic during the Cold War, now fly from Jacksonville, Florida.

The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, established to find new uses for the base and a Topsham housing annex, reconfigures the base as the Brunswick Landing: Maine’s Center for Innovation, a business park; and Brunswick Executive Airport, which uses the former base’s two 8,000-foot runways.

By 2020, according to the redevelopment agency, the property it controls hosts 135 businesses employing 2,000 people and has generated $3 million in property taxes.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at  Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

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