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[RoadsAroundME main page] Maine State Route 26
<< Maine State Route 25W All Points in Maine Maine State Route 26A >>

Termini and Mileage (2006)

Main alignment: Int of STATE ST, CUMBERLAN, Portland to Int of RTE 26, NH STATE LI, Upton
Main alignment: 96.7 miles (total over all segments)

Regional and National Route Information

History as Pole Highway (1919-1925)
NEI 26 included the Yellow Longfellow Highway south from Bethel to Portland, and the White - Yellow Grafton Notch Hwy north from Bethel to the New Hampshire state line, part of the larger Dixville Notch Hwy. Some portion of it may also have been part of the Blue - White Capital Way.
History as New England Interstate (1925)
Originally signed as part of NEI 26.

Notes and History

Like ME 25, ME 26 is another former NEI serving the western section of the state (and also has always crossed the border, via Gray, Newry, Bethel and Upton). An important corridor even in the early days of Maine highways, it corresponded to both the Longfellow Hwy and Grafton Notch Hwy auto trails, and prior to that former lettered highways S and T (and probably part of E).

ME 26 has always terminated in the regions it does today, and is another route to terminate at ME 77 in downtown Portland along with ME 22 and ME 25 (but this time from the other side, crossing Back Cove and descending on Washington to Cumberland Ave). "Morally" speaking ME 26 has generally been perceived as ending at US 1, although this is no longer the case due to US 1's rerouting, but the actual point at which it terminated has wandered somewhat in the past. The 1934 National Surveys map shows it along Washington Avenue as it is today, but another routing is suggested by a 1937 WPA map, showing ME 3/ME 25/ME 26/ME 100 and US 302 coming down along Forest and State Sts to intersect a secondary alignment of US 1 which was then running along State and Danforth. By 1949, the routing along Washington and Cumberland is clearly seen in the route log, although its terminus probably didn't move to its current administrative position until ME 77's did in 1955.

When US 1A in Portland was first designated, portions of it were co-routed with ME 26 along Washington Avenue including the Tukey's Bridge crossing over Back Cove. The old Portland US 1A was routed there, and ME 26 still is, but that crossing became part of I-295 after its reconfiguration and remains so today. Naturally, Washington Ave is also now discontinuous.

ME 26's signed end is at Washington and Congress, one block past Cumberland; there isn't an obvious reason why, and doesn't seem to have been a historical terminus. Further evidence against it having been a true terminus is signage on Congress for I-295 and US 1 (TO both), but not ME 26.

Along ME 26 in Poland Spring (not Poland Springs!) near ME 122 is the original Poland Spring Bottling Plant and Spring House. In 1794, settler Jabez Ricker first moved into the area and turned to the springs when his son Wentworth seemed certain to die. His miraculous recovery led to the spring's medicinal reputation and a wood house was built to enclose it in 1827, upgraded to a hotel in 1877, and upgraded again with a bottling plant in 1907. The Spring House and Bottling Plant have entertained and hosted celebrities throughout the years, including two sitting Presidents (Taft and Coolidge). For its carefully efficient design and its sanitary construction, allegedly the best in the world for the time, the Plant today is a State Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

Now that US 1 has been shifted to I-295, it is possible, but unknown, that ME 26's administrative terminus will move again.

ME 26 is a multi-state route with New Hampshire; see also ME 4, ME 9, ME 11, ME 16, ME 25, ME 109 and ME 110.

See also ME 26A.

Archival Photographs

[Thumbnail image. Select for 640x480.] Junction of ME 26, ME 117 and the terminus of ME 119 in South Paris, in the 1940s. The junction is signed not only with conventional shields but also on the "GO RIGHT" traffic post, which correctly indicates ME 117 and ME 119 are cosigned in a useless multiplex. (Private photographer in author's collection.)

Additional Resources

Maine Highways 26 to 50 (JP Kirby)
Rain falls in Gray, far away ... (Eric Bryant)

<< Maine State Route 25W All Points in Maine Maine State Route 26A >>
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All images, photographs and multimedia, unless otherwise stated, are copyright © 2005-2010 Cameron Kaiser. All rights reserved. All writeups are copyright © 2005-2010 Cameron Kaiser. All rights reserved. Unauthorized copying or duplication without express consent of the copyright holder is strictly prohibited. Please contact the sitemaster to request permission if you wish to use items from this page.

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