BANGOR COURTHOUSE HISTORY
Penobscot County Superior Court
District Court Bangor
Penobscot County Superior Court Contact Information
District Court-Bangor Contact Information
The following excerpt is reprinted by permission from The Courthouses of Maine, Robert K. Sloane, Senior Editor.
The County Courthouse
Three courthouses have been constructed in Bangor to serve Penobscot
County. The rapid growth of the county and its logging industries
required construction of two substantial courthouses in the nineteenth
century and one in the twentieth. The last to be constructed still
stands proudly on the site of one of its predecessors.
The First Courthouse
The first courthouse in Penobscot County was built on speculation.
Several years before the county was incorporated and the probability
that a courthouse would soon be needed. According to a 100-year-old
account in the Maine Historical Magazine, the first Penobscot
County courthouse was built “as a house of Public Worship .nd
for a courthouse when wanted.” The builders were “an
association of public spirited gentlemen," who formed the Bangor
Courthouse Corporation. The group included Capt. Charles Hammond
who arrived in Bangor in 1805 and became a leading citizen, storeowner
and real estate developer, from who the group purchased a half-acre
lot, bounded by Columbia, Hammond and Main Streets.
The new building was built to face Market Square near the corner of
Main and Hammond Streets. A crew began construction in 1812
and work was completed in 1813. It was put to immediate use
for town meeting and the religious worship services of the First Congregational
Before the building was put to use as the courthouse for Penobscot
County, it was “occupied” in a very different sense by
the British in the War of 1812. British troops arrived in the
defenseless town on September 2, 1814, intending to occupy all of
Maine from the Penobscot River to the North. They commandeered
the courthouse building as a barracks for the soldiers. The
British didn't stay long in Bangor--two days during which Bangor was
forced to give bond to assure the delivery of certain vessels, then
under construction, to the British at Castine. Because of this
town’s bond, the courthouse and most of the twon emerged intact.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court held its first term in Bangor in this
building in October 1821. All of the newly appointed members
of the Court—Chief Justice Prentiss Mellen and Associate Justices
William Pitt Preble and Nathan Weston, Jr.—were present for
the session. The court at that time performed both its trial
and appellate functions when sitting in the courthouse in Bangor.
The Second Courthouse
By the 1830s, Bangor was in the midst of a lumber boom, growing at
such a rapid rate that the population tripled in four years. The
boom brought country loggers and deep-water sailors and boat builders
to Bangor, with the accompanying taverns, grog shops, lodging houses
and brothels. The dozen lawyers available in 1825 quickly grew
to forty. The townsfolk agitated for more law enforcement—a
more up-to-date and fireproof courthouse as well as separate building
for twon law enforcement officials, town records and offices. In
February 1831, the county appointed a committee to receive proposals
for a brick courthouse. A site for the building was found on
Hammond Street. Anticipating the successful conclusion of the
work of the committee, the Court of Sessions authorized the sale of
the old courthouse to the town of Bangor for use as a town hall. The
sale price was $3,260.00. The terms of the deed reserved the
use of the building for court purposes until the new building was
ready for use.
Construction of the building began in 1832 and it was completed and
occupied in 1833. The new courthouse was constructed just in
time for the land speculation boom, which reached its height in Maine
between 1834 and 1836. Bangor’s fame in handling timber
reached its peak in 1850, when it was probably the leading lumber
port in the world.
After 1850, the population and growth of Penobscot county led to a
discussion of a new building to replace the aging and inadequate 1833
structure, but resulted only in a modest wing being added to the building. The
courthouse was used for sessions of the Supreme Judicial Court serving
Penobscot County until 1851, when a court reorganization act divided
the state into three districts for appellate or “law” court
sessions. The Eastern District was focused on Bangor, and the
courthouse became the place for holding terms in June and July of
The 1903 Penobscot County Courthouse
The 1831 courthouse with its 1859 additions continued in use to the
end of the century, when the county commissioners authorized the construction
of a new building. The new structure to be designed by architect
Wilfred E. Mansur was to be on the site of the old courthouse. Mansur’s
design called for a three-story classical style structure.
Construction of this building, the third Penobscot County Courthouse began in 1901 with the demolition of the old building. The Penobscot County Courthouse was completed in 1903. With virtually no alteration to its exterior, it remains in service to county residents and officials. The interior has been modernized over the years to keep up with county needs. A major and dramatic visual change is the magnificent mural depicting the history of Penobscot County, which rises through the building on the grand interior staircase.