Maine groups want Pokemon Go to help lead you back through history

Two people that play Pokemon Go, at the PokeParty on the Bangor Waterfront July 31. Photo courtesy Jeff Kirlin.

Two people that play Pokemon Go, at the PokeParty on the Bangor Waterfront July 31. Photo courtesy Jeff Kirlin.

As Pokemon Go continues its reign of dominance over the attention spans of millions of people, businesses and individuals have taken advantage of the game’s popularity in different ways — churches offering recharging stations, businesses buying “lures” to attract Pokemon players, restaurants offering 10 percent off your bill to members of certain teams. There was even a PokeParty on the Bangor Waterfront last weekend, with raffles benefiting the American Heart Association. There are lots of opportunities to increase traffic outside or even inside your doors, if you learn a little bit about the game.

But there’s one way to capitalize on it that’s relatively unique to Pokemon Go — the fact that one of the key elements of the game are the PokeStops, which are set locations in the real world that, when one is physically close enough to it, one can collect PokeBalls and other items from, set lures at and otherwise congregate around. PokeStops are often tied to historical sites, since the game is based on the sites identified in Ingress, also an “augmented reality” game that’s based around real-world locations.

In the Bangor area alone, there are countless PokeStops tied to Bangor history, from the Hannibal Hamlin statue in Norumbega Parkway, to the Willard Carlton Orr footbridge, connecting Exchange and Broad Streets. For Pokemon Go players that might not otherwise know anything about what those names and places actually mean, the Bangor Historical Society has come up with an ingenious way to educate players as they try to catch that elusive Dragonite: a PokeStop History Tour, set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3, beginning at the Bangor Historical Society headquarters at the Thomas Hill House at 159 Union St. — which also happens to be a PokeStop.

“I can’t take an ounce of credit for it — it was two of our Americorp volunteers, Amanda and Chris, who are both avid players,” said Melissa Gerety, executive director of the Bangor Historical Society. “There was a Saturday a few weeks ago where we had 15 people come into the Hill House from playing Pokemon, and that was I believe the start of the idea… this is an opportunity to show Bangor’s history to a whole new group of people.”

Amanda Black, who with her fellow volunteer will be leading the tour, said she herself is a Pokemon player, and that she had as many questions about some of the historical PokeStops as many other players likely do.

“I’m a player too, and I see all these spots and can just imagine that everyone else wants to know the same things I do,” said Black.

The tour will start at the Hill House and will wind it’s way around downtown Bangor, before heading towards the Waterfront, where it will end. Should the tour attract a good crowd, Gerety said the BHS plans to offer several more dates through the fall.

“This is just such a fun way to get the word out about what we do,” she said, adding that this is just one in many new initiatives the BHS has undertaken in the past few years, including the monthly wine tastings at the Thomas Hill House, and a robust social media presence including regular posts about historical houses in Bangor.

It’s not just Bangor, though: the Maine Historical Society in Portland will also offer a historical tour of PokeStops during the First Friday Art Walk this Friday, Aug. 5, starting at 5 p.m. at the MHS headquarters at 489 Congress Street. Both the BHS and the MHS had independently planned PokeTours; it’s just a coincidence that both happen to be in the same week.

So, if you’re down at the Bangor Waterfront, catching your 900th Drowzee or another 15CP Magikarp, and you find yourself wondering what the “Anchors Aweigh” PokeStop is all about — we recommend taking the Bangor tour to learn a little bit about the community you’re catching them all in.


Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, UMaine graduate, proud Bangorian and a writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food to all the cool things going on in the Greater Bangor area. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra. She's interested in everything that happens in Maine.