|There is no doubt about that the heydays of Lubec,ME are long gone, and there is no better time for that realization than if you walk Water Street on a chilly day in December. This street, once lined with big salt-shacks, smoke houses and fish canneries, is appearing almost empty. A few remnants are still reminding the visitor of the town’s past. Speaking of visitors, there are none today, that is if you don’t think of us coming across the bridge from Campobello, being visitors. But the town has kept its seaside appeal alive. The style of the commercial buildings long Water Street, speaks of the good old days, and Lubecers are genuinely proud of their pretty little town.|
Below: Frank’s Dockside Restaurant great place to eat, but closed today.
On Water Street
However, once being in town, I am swinging my camera here and there. The row of buildings, some containing souvenir stores, seem to be in a state of hibernation, awaiting the next warm summer with scores of visitors to fill the parlors and stores. However, the Lubec Brewing Company is open though and a few beer enthusiasts might be coming along to quench their thirst.
Lubec used to have a lot more residents, but that was while there was still fish to catch and to process. When the salt-shacks, smoke houses and canneries closed, people lost their work and left town in search for a better life in a bigger place. What they left behind was boarded-up buildings and a sense of despair for those who remained in residence, mostly the older population.
Prior to the decline, there were 20 smokehouses in Lubec producing 50 to 60 thousand boxes of fish annually, bringing employment and prosperity to the town. In 1797, Daniel Ramsdell cured the first herring by smoke, a process of preserving fish he had learned in Nova Scotia. Lubec would become the national leader in smoked herring production. Smokehouses and the many brush weirs that supplied herring lined the shore. Weir construction also brought a measure of prosperity to area farmers who cut the necessary stakes and brush needed to build and refurbish the herring traps. So great was the demand for the large herring preferred by the smokehouses that Lubec began sending vessels to the Magdelen Islands in the quest for fish. The 1855 Maine Register reported: “During the 1850s it was said that the smoked herring business employed every male resident over the age of 10 in the Washington County town of Lubec.”
It’s hard to believe but due to increases in retail activity, fishing and fish processing employment opportunities, shipping and farming, Lubec’s population grew to 3,000 by 1850. The town boasted three post offices, four churches, several fraternal organizations including Freemasons, and a ferry connecting Lubec and Eastport. People migrated to the town in search of work and, with money to spend, shopped at the growing number of stores on Water Street.
Ferry boat in 1936, Below: same place today
Following a period of decline during the Depression, World War II revitalized the industry with factories on both the east and west coasts working at capacity to supply the Army and Navy with three million, one-hundred can cases per year. Seven new factories were built in Lubec. With the end of the War demand for canned sardines decreased sharply and the overbuilt industry began to decline. By 1976 there were only two factories operating in Lubec. The last cannery was closed as late as in 2001.
Tourism can be credited to have kept the town alive. The establishment of the Roosevelt Campobello International Park and the construction of the FDR Memorial Bridge was incidental to bring visitors to the region. B+Bs, souvenir stores, and restaurants have opened since, providing much needed services for summer visitors.
As we reach Cohill’s Inn facing a cold wind off the water, we are overlooking the boat launch. The parking area is filled with trucks, belonging to the fishermen who are still out trying to get a good catch before Christmas. They are part of the current remaining population of about 300 fulltime residents, less than a tenth of what it was in 1910, when Lubec’s population reached its peak with 3364 residents.We conclude our cross-border visit with a stop at the local IGA to get a few weekend goodies.
The Tavern, another great place to have a meal
Come see us on Campobello!
After more than one year operating behind a close border, we are cautiously optimistic that our border might be reopened during late summer or fall. Meanwhile, we accept fully vaccinated persons or people from the same family group living in the same household.
As has been our practice, our van can pick you up at any place on Campobello. As soon as the border is open again we can also offer pickups in Lubec, Maine. We do custom private tours and groups are welcome.
Specialty tours, also in combination with Tours to f.ex. St.Andrews can be tailored to your personal wishes. Should you arrive from the U.S. by marine vessel, please call 1-888-CANPASS (1-888-226 7277) for your border check-in. International Boat Arrivals can be processed at Welshpool Landing (welshpoollanding.com)
Coming from the U.S. you will need your passport and please remember that Campobello is on Atlantic Time.
For reservations please call or email a day prior to your intended visit. Any later attempt to make a reservation may go unsuccessful as we might be on a tour just when you call.
Thanks for visiting and be welcome to the island.
3 hrs Van-Tour across the Island CAD 40/person, USD 30/person
Walking Tours: CAD 35/hr. pp USD 25/hr.pp
All prices add 15%tax
PRIVATE TOURS: Call for individual rates.
1-506 752 1901
1-207 263 6076
Useful information on crossing our border to the United States: LINKCOVID-19 INFO:Travel advisory: COVID-19 border measures for Campobello Islan