How would you describe hell? To people in Maine long ago, hell apparently meant a lot of booze or a rocky island, leading at least two places here to be named Hell’s Half Acre — in Bangor and Stonington.
If you’re interested in all 63 locations across the U.S. that have been called Hell’s Half Acre, the site Atlas Obscura put together an interactive map you can find here. As the article by Steven Melendez points out:
Hell’s Half Acre is one of the most consistent place nicknames in American history. For roughly the next 100 years [after 1846], the name Hell’s Half Acre was applied to scores of places across the United States, from Bangor, Maine, to Honolulu, Hawaii. It spread through war, through westward expansion, through simple word-of-mouth. And yet, as the Daily Picayune noted, it was not often found on the map.
In Bangor, you’ve probably heard of the Devil’s Half Acre, also called Hell’s Half Acre or the Acre. As Wayne E. Reilly wrote for the BDN, it was “a place where loggers, sailors and other workingmen gathered to spend their cash on whiskey and women. Many of these men were transients, often immigrants, who traveled with jobs and the seasons.”
In the late 19th and early 20th century, when Maine was a dry state, you could find an alcoholic drink within the Acre, located along Front and Broad streets near where they intersect with Union Street. That’s where the Kenduskeag Stream flows into the Penobscot River — and where Sea Dog Brewing is now. (How fitting.)
Up the coast, off Stonington, is another Hell’s Half Acre: a small, forested island with sloping granite ledges. You can kayak, sail or take a power boat there to spend the night at a campsite. (Just remember to carry out all your trash.) It’s owned by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.
Hells Half Acre features an open grassy camping area at its center and long granite ledges that slope down to the shore. Because of its relatively flat landing areas, this island is reasonably accessible to people with physical disabilities. Hells Half Acre has experienced significant blowdown activity in recent years; evidence of cleanup efforts can be seen in the form of cut logs and tree stumps around the island.
If that’s hell, let’s go.