Camden (population 5,254), which is located at the foot of the wooded Camden Hills on a picturesque harbor, was first settled in 1769. Camden prospered during the 18th and 19th centuries, with important local industries including shipbuilding and woolen manufacturing. By the turn of the century, wealthy families began to “summer” in Camden, building magnificent summer homes and funding major public improvements in the community.
Tourism became increasingly important as the 20th century progressed, and the cruise schooner business was launched in the 1940s, leading to the development of the current Windjammer Fleet of historic ships. Today, Camden vies with Kennebunkport and Bar Harbor as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Maine.
Camden has two historic districts, and a number of notable preservation efforts are underway or recently completed. The Camden Opera House has been restored to serve not only as performance space, but also for use as Town offices and other community uses.
Three historic landscaped spaces – the Village Green, the Camden Harbor Park, and the Camden Amphitheatre – that were donated to the community in the 1930s by a local philanthropist have been restored through public-private partnerships.
These landscapes at the head of the harbor are the focal point for Camden’s heritage tourism. The original designs by noted landscape architects Fletcher Steele and the Olmsted Brothers have been reinvigorated. They are the site of many annual events, including Windjammer Days, when the historic Windjammer Fleet returns to port for a celebration of Camden’s maritime heritage.
Designated a Preserve America Community in June 2005.