In its early years, Presque Isle suffered numerous fires. As a result, there are few original buildings left along Main Street. One of the oldest buildings still in existence is the Allen Building, located immediately to the south of the Northeastland Hotel at 428 Main Street.
Charles Plummer Allen built this building in 1890. It served as his law office, the location of Presque Isle’s first bank, and the town’s first official post office under Postmaster James Phair.
Allen could easily be referred to as a true Renaissance man, as could many of the prominent men in the city’s early history. The term “Renaissance man” refers to someone who has a wide range of interests and is an expert in several of those areas.
Allen’s obituary in a 1931 Star-Herald stated, “He served the State in various capacities, was active in the commercial affairs of this community, and attained a more than usual prominence in his profession.”
Charles was born in 1852, the grandson of John Allen, one of the pioneers of Maysville and Presque Isle.
He passed the Maine Bar in 1877 and began his law practice on Main Street in Presque Isle. During the course of his legal career, he also served as the county attorney from 1883 to 1886; and as the Judge Advocate General under Governor Burleigh. In 1901, he bought a local insurance company and added that to his law practice as well.
Allen was said to be deeply interested in education. For 14 years, he served as a Trustee for the University of Maine. In addition, he also served as a trustee for Maine’s Normal Schools. Of course, the Aroostook Normal School (the term for a teachers’ college) established in 1903 ultimately became the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
In 1883, the town of Presque Isle annexed the town of Maysville immediately to our north. Allen was said to have played a key role in this annexation. This may have been due to his family’s history. His grandfather, John, was one of the early settlers of and a large land owner in Maysville. In fact, Charles attended school at the one-room schoolhouse in Maysville.
Charles was an organizer of Presque Isle’s first bank, Presque Isle National Bank, and served as its president. He was later instrumental in the organization of Merchants Trust & Banking Company, of which he also served as president.
He was referred to as Col. Allen. As he was too young to have served in the U.S. Civil War, it is thought that he served in the Maine militia as a volunteer. There is reference to a Charles Allen in the First Platoon of the 1st Maine Battery in April 1886. Unfortunately, Charles Allen was a fairly common name in his day, so without actual pension papers, it is difficult to be certain.
He was a staunch Republican and attended the State Republican Convention for 52 successive years. In addition, Allen was a Mason, Shriner, Elk, and member of St. Aldemar’s Commandery of the Knights Templar. Charles passed away in 1931 at his home on the northwest corner of State and Third streets, which still stands today.
Kimberly R. Smith is the secretary/treasurer of the Presque Isle Historical Society.