Calais (pronounced /kælɨs/ ( listen), rhyming with palace) is a city in Washington County, Maine, United States. The city has three United States border crossings or also known as a Port of entry (POE) with the busiest being on the St. Croix River bordering St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada. Calais has historically been a city of commerce and is recognized as the primary shopping center of eastern Washington County and Charlotte County, New Brunswick, Canada. Currently retail, service, and construction businesses are the primary components of the Calais economy. The population was 3,123 at the 2010 census.
The river and its area were first explored by Samuel de Champlain when he and his men spent a winter on St. Croix Island in 1604. The first permanent settler was Daniel Hill of Jonesboro, who arrived in 1779, and with others built the first sawmill in 1782. On June 27, 1789, the Massachusetts General Court sold the township to Waterman Thomas for 19¢ an acre (Approx $2.30 an acre in 2006 dollars). Early occupations included farming, hunting and ship building.
On June 16, 1809, Plantation Number 5 PS was incorporated as Calais after Calais, France, in honor of French assistance during the American Revolution. The river provided the mill town with water power for industry, which included sawmills, clapboard and shingle mills, 2 planing mills, a saw factory, 2 axe factories and 4 grain mills. There were foundries, machine shops, granite works, shoe factories and a tannery. Other businesses produced bricks, bedsteads, brooms, carriages and plaster.