On May 18, 1909 a crowd of 2000 people gathered at the bunting-draped 1888 Eastern Steamship Company wharf in Belfast to await the arrival and christening of the new steamship Belfast, which had been built at the Bath Iron Works. The 320-foot-long steamer, the largest and most modern of the night boats to Boston, had a steel hull, triple steam turbine engines, and three propellers, which enhanced maneuverability.

The atmosphere was much more somber a year later when, on a foggy May morning, Belfast hit the Bar Harbor-bound ESS steamer J.T. Morse at its berth at Tillson’s Wharf in Rockland. The impact made a large gash in the smaller boat, and it sank within minutes. The Morse was raised and sailing a month later.

Belfast was a hub for steamer traffic, and the steamship wharf was a busy place. In addition to carrying passengers to towns around the Bay, many boats offered summer excursions to historic sites, entertainment venues, fishing grounds, and other points of interest.

By the 1930s bridges carried vehicles across the Passagassawakeag River in Belfast and the Penobscot River in Bucksport, and the era of steamboats was coming to an end. The Eastern steamship wharf was used for a time as a roller skating rink before it was torn down.

Catalog Number LB2007.1.100145