Preserve America Community:
Located on Casco Bay, Portland, Maine, (population 67,000) was first settled by Europeans in 1632. Called Falmouth Neck, the settlement was destroyed by French Canadians and their Native American allies in 1676 and 1688, but was resettled early in the 18th century. The community flourished, thanks to the mast trade, shipbuilding, and export of natural resources.
In 1775 British Naval ships destroyed the town, which was rebuilt and renamed Portland after the war. In 1820 Portland became the first capital of the state of Maine and was incorporated as a city in 1832.
In the 1840s a new railroad bypassed the frozen St. Lawrence River, making Portland essentially Canada’s winter port. The Great Fire of 1866 destroyed two-thirds of the city, and Portland was again rebuilt, establishing its red brick Victorian character. Appropriately, the phoenix was adopted as its symbol.
The early 20th century saw the construction of “skyscrapers,” department stores, and large apartment blocks Downtown, and the adjoining suburb of Deering was annexed. Shipbuilding and the headquartering of the Atlantic Fleet in Casco Bay brought prosperity to the city during World War II.
Recently, a number of public and private groups collaborated to restore Victoria Mansion, an Italianate villa-style National Historic Landmark completed in 1860. Considered one of the finest examples of residential design from the pre-Civil War era, the mansion welcomes more than 20,000 visitors a year.
Other historic attractions include the childhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; the 1755 Tate House, a colonial house museum; and the 1807 Portland Observatory, the last remaining maritime signal station in the United States.
The city offers a number of walking tours, including tours of the city’s Old Port; the Spring Street Historic District; and Eastern Cemetery, established in 1668.
For more information
City of Portland: www.ci.portland.me.us
Convention and Visitors Bureau: www.visitportland.com
Maine Historical Society: www.mainehistory.org
Posted March 9, 2009