Castine Common is a planned public space that adorns one of Maine’s most historic communities. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Castine hovered on the battle lines of three nations: France, Britain, and the Netherlands. As part of the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution, Castine joined the young American nation only to be briefly recaptured by the British during the War of 1812. The capture hardly disrupted the prosperity of one of the wealthiest towns in northern New England. Indeed, by 1812 Castine flourished as a fishing, shipping, and shipbuilding center. Fine Federal and Greek Revival houses lined the town’s streets by the 1820s. It was in this early period that Castine obtained title to the one-acre land parcel at the junction of Court and Green streets, a block north of Water Street and the Castine waterfront.
In 1817, two years after purchasing the lot, the town leveled the acre of land and planted it with grass and closely spaced double rows of elm trees. In 1852 the Common was fenced. A granite Civil War monument was erected on the Common in 1886; the town later placed a boulder on the Common with an inscribed plaque and flagpole dedicated to World War I veterans. Prominent buildings surround the open, rectangular space. In the northwest corner of School Street, facing the Common, sits the Abbott School (1859), now home to the Castine Historical Society. On the southwest corner is the Witherle Memorial Library (1913). The Unitarian Church (1790), once the Congregational Meetinghouse, occupies the southeast corner at Court and School streets.
Today, because of Dutch elm disease, only a few elms remain, along with a spruce tree. However, the Common, with its lush lawn, is well maintained.
Cushing, John D. “Town Commons of New England, 1640-1840.” Old Time New England 51, no. 183 (Winter 1961): 86-94.
Mundy, James H., and Richard D. Kelly, “Castine Historic District,” Hancock County, Maine. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 1973. National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, D.C.
Wood, Joseph S. The New England Village. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2002.