Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Camden Harbor Park and Amphitheater

camden harbor park, camden maineCamden is a classic Maine coastal town with a lot of history. People who are interested in heritage tourism and historic landmarks can view the original designs (Camden Harbor Park and the Camden Amphitheater) of two of the most important landscape architects in American history, the Olmsted Brothers and Fletcher Steele. The Olmsted Brothers (sons of the renowned Frederick Law Olmsted who designed Central Park in New York and Boston’s Emerald Necklace) designed Camden Harbor Park in Camden Maine. The Olmstead Brothers designed Camden Harbor Park to maximize its natural surroundings and waterfront location. Accordingly, Camden Harbor Park's gentle hillside slopes were landscaped to provide the best possible view of the harbor and all its activity.

camden amphitheater, camden maineThe adjacent Camden Amphitheater was formed through the skillful hands of Fletcher Steele, a noted landscape architect who is famous for creating elegant landscaping masterpieces for many private estates across the country including Naumkeag, Ancrum House, Whitney Allen House, Standish Backus House, Turner House and Lisborne Grange. These two skillful architects were commissioned by Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist in 1931. Mary Louise Bok donated two acres of prime real estate located adjacent to Camden Harbor. What she got were two harmonious locations that offered tourists and residents breathtaking views of the harbor.

camden harbor park 2, camden maineCamden Harbor Park’s gently sloping hills offer the best area for a glorious picnic. Shrubs and trees were skillfully planted by the Olmsted Brothers to screen out the working harbor. This open space complements the Amphitheater beside it which borrowed the views provided by this area. Steele on the other hand designed the Amphitheater in a horseshoe shape as an off-kilter space so that the people can stare out and see the navy blue waters of Penobscot Bay.

camden amphitheater 2, camden maineThis grand setting was once featured in the 1957 movie Peyton Place. It has seen endless rounds of festivals, picnics and graduations which resulted over the years in threadbare lawns and crumbled paths. However, in 2003, Camden Harbor Park and Amphitheater got a much-needed restoration from Heritage Landscapes.

The dramatic designs of Olmsted Brothers and Steele were retained as the restoration tried to recapture the quaint beauty of these two Camden tourist spots. In the Amphitheater, dead trees were replaced and strawberry and sedum were replanted for step pockets which were Steele’s original intention. The landscape restoration team arranged the granite risers and fixed the drainage. Camden Harbor Park required more work as massive replantings were undertaken. A wheelchair-accessible entrance was also added.

Today, Camden Harbor Park and the Camden Amphitheater have been restored to their original elegant glory. The ground covers, trees, and shrubs have thrived and bloomed and tourists are now treated with a peaceful location in which to enjoy the panoramic views of Camden Harbor and the fleet of schooners, sailboats and private yachts docked nearby.

Soak up the sun and the breeze in Camden Harbor Park and Amphitheater and enjoy some of the best views that Camden has to offer. Remember, these areas are considered major works of the artistry of two of America’s most prominent landscape artists of all time. T2WPHJ4PB2RM


  1. I'd like to know what those trees are that have been shaped. Are they Chinese Elms? Have they been Pollarded? How old are they? They are at the edge of the amphitheatre, right near the sidewalk that leads to the new library entrance, the lower one.

  2. what are the beautiful trees with the big white flowers.