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America's First Mile - US 1 - Fort Kent, Maine

 


US Route 1 begins quietly alongside the St. John River in Fort Kent, Maine, next to the Clair-Fort Kent Bridge, an international bridge that crosses the river into Clair, New Brunswick, Canada. US 1 passes through some of the largest and most important cities in the United States from Mile 0 at its southern end in Key West, Florida, following the Fall Line as it makes its way up the Atlantic Seaboard during its journey of 2,369 miles. Once US 1 reaches this remote corner of Aroostook County in northern Maine, there is just a small park that honors Fort Kent's role in the greater scheme of the highway system in the United States. Fort Kent is known for a few things outside of being America's First Mile of US 1, with a strong Acadian heritage where many area residents are bilingual in French and English, and being a popular venue for biathlon competitions. However, it is US 1 that ties Fort Kent in with the rest of the country.


Flanked by the American, Canadian, Maine, and Acadian flags, the America's First Mile Monument was erected in 2010 to honor where US 1 begins. The granite monument was designed by a local graphic artist named Heidi Carter and replaced a wooden sign that was nearby. The slogan of "America's First Mile" was the brainchild of businessman John Freeman who worked with the Marketing Fort Kent Advisory Committee to secure funding and interest in a new monument near the bridge leading to Canada. The monument features a park where you can learn about Fort Kent and US 1, plus a staircase that leads to a berm that allows you to see across the St. John Valley. 


I visited the America's First Mile monument in July 2014, at a time when the international bridge was in the process of being replaced. I came across the monument during the end of a trip up US 1 from Houlton, expecting to see the old wooden sign, but saw the monument instead.

The first mile of US 1 extends from the bridge to the Daigle-Dube House (or just Dube House as seen on the monument), one of the most prominent and historic houses in Fort Kent. Continue down US 1 to the northeastern corner of the United States near Madawaska before starting the long journey down south.

The centerpiece of the America's First Mile monument.

The monument marks the beginning of US 1, which was originally 2,446 miles south of Key West. Over the years as parts of US 1 were moved onto different roads, the number of miles that make up US 1 had changed.

Over at the Northern Door Inn, which is just on the other side of the street, they have their own signs indicating the beginning of US 1 in Fort Kent, Maine.

Along with the ending of US 1.

Beyond the international bridge, you can continue straight onto ME 161, which goes to Allagash, Maine. If you cross the bridge into New Brunswick, you can take either NB 161 or NB 205 once you get into Clair. To complicate matters, if you turn around, you can take ME 161 or US 1 to Caribou, Maine. The America's First Mile Monument is just beyond the second building to the right, or just the first building now (the building housing the bistro is no longer standing).

At the time of my visit, the steel truss bridge in the background across the St. John River between Fort Kent, Maine and Clair, New Brunswick was being replaced with the newer international bridge in the foreground. A walk up the staircase to the berm from the monument will lead you to this view.


How to Get There:



Sources and Links:
Atlas Obscura - America's First Mile
Federal Highway Administration - U.S. 1: Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida
Bangor Daily News - America’s First Mile dedicated in Fort Kent (November 14, 2010)
Route 1 Views - America's First Mile - The Top of Route 1
The Historical Marker Database - America's First Mile

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