Skip to main content
Maine Historical Society



A Brief History of Maine Historical Society

banner image for timeline

Maine Historical Society acknowledges our organization and all of Maine resides on Wabanaki Homelands, the land and waters of Ckuwapohnakiyik, which Wabanaki peoples have stewarded for over 13,000 years.

Since 1901, MHS' Portland headquarters have resided in a region called Cascoak in Abenaki, and Aucocisco in Micmac. This was an historic meeting place where Wabanaki peoples negotiated with settler-colonialists as documented though 17th and 18th century collections held at MHS.

For more MHS history, read the essay "Two Hundred Years of Maine Historical Society" in our Spring 2022 CIRCA member newsletter and visit the Maine Memory Network exhibition MHS in Pictures. Stay tuned for historian William D. Barry's forthcoming book on MHS' history, serialized in upcoming issues of the Maine History journal.


Albion Keith Parris
Albion Keith Parris

Maine separates from Massachusetts to become the 23rd state to join the Union as part of the Missouri Compromise. Maine members of Massachusetts Historical Society leave the organization with plans to create their own place to preserve Maine's story.


Political and cultural state leaders, including first Governor William King, establish the Maine Historical Society. Future governor Albion Keith Parris is MHS' first president.


MHS' focus on research, scholarship, collecting, and publication lays the foundation for our understanding of Maine today.


Baxter Building
Baxter Building, Portland, ca. 1889

After spending its first 60 years at Bowdoin College, MHS moves to Portland—first to the Baxter Building with the Portland Public Library and then to City Hall.


James Phinney Baxter, mayor of Portland, becomes MHS' President and launches a 30-year period of dynamic growth for the organization.


Anne Longfellow Pierce inside Wadsworth-Longfellow House
Anne Longfellow Pierce inside Wadsworth-Longfellow House

Anne Longfellow Pierce, sister of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, bequeaths the Wadsworth-Longfellow House to MHS, establishing MHS' headquarters at the Congress Street location.


The Wadsworth-Longfellow House, one of the nation's first literary house museums, opens to the public.


The MHS Research Library, located behind the Wadsworth-Longfellow House and designed by the poet's nephew Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow, opens to organization members.

Longfellow garden
Longfellow Garden


MHS membership opens to women, although still by invitation. Before this time, women were only permitted "honorary memberships."


The Longfellow Garden, a colonial revival landscape designed by Myron Lamb, opens.


Student in MHS Museum
Student in MHS Museum

MHS membership, previously by invitation only, becomes available to the general public.


MHS purchases 489 Congress Street and creates a museum and public programming space to engage with the community.


MHS completes the Wadsworth-Longfellow House Centennial Restoration project, welcoming 21st century audiences.

Wadsworth-Longfellow House tour
Wadsworth-Longfellow House tour


MHS launches Maine Memory Network, our nationally-recognized online digital history platform.


After a large-scale restoration and expansion, MHS rededicates its library as the Alida Carroll and John Marshall Brown Research Library in commemoration of the building's centennial.


In cooperation with the Portland Public Library, MHS creates an 18,000 square-foot offsite collection management facility, strengthening MHS' commitment to the long term care for and development of its collections.

Tour at MHS Riverside Collections Management Center
Tour at MHS Riverside Collections Management Center


MHS celebrates 200 years of preserving and sharing Maine's story and looks ahead with excitement to our third century.


TMHS200 Logo