Everything Past is Present
Originally called Machigonne (Great Neck) by the Native Americans who first inhabited it, the Portland peninsula was established by the British in 1632 as a trading and fishing settlement. Industry grew and Portland’s waterfront became a mecca for shipping and trading companies. The Phoenix, the mythical bird that rises from the ashes, aptly symbolizes Portland’s legendary rebirth after the Great Fire of 1866 leveled the city for the fourth time. Almost completely rebuilt during the Victorian era, Portland has maintained much of its 19th century architecture and flavor.
Renewed interest in exporting, the prominent fishing industry and the redevelopment of Portland’s working waterfront have revitalized Maine’s largest metropolitan center. With constant attention to landmark preservation, Portland has successfully incorporated the character of the past into a modern urban environment.
National Historic Trust Honors Portland in 2003
In 2003, the National Historic Trust honored Portland by naming it one of its Dozen Distinctive Destinations. This award is bestowed upon 12 U.S. communities that offer Americans enjoyable natural, historic, aesthetic, recreational, and cultural experiences. It is no surprise Greater Portland Casco Bay falls under this category; our past is present in everyday life.
Entire neighborhoods of red brick buildings dating from the late 1860s offer a glimpse of the careful craftsmanship and fine architecture of the era. You can walk along pleasant residential streets just adjacent to the downtown and marvel at the work of nationally renowned residential architect John Calvin Stevens, Maine’s foremost architect in the 1880s. The Old Port is a quaint, Victorian district of shops and restaurants in restored commercial buildings. As one of the most successful revitalized warehouse districts in the country, the Old Port seamlessly connects to the waterfront and acts as both working waterfront and a chic shopping, dining, and entertainment district. Up on the eastern part of the city’s peninsula stands the Portland Observatory, the only extant maritime signal station in the United States, and thus a unique architectural icon of maritime shipping and the “Golden Age of Sail.” The tower offers unobstructed views of the entrance to our harbor.