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portland maine history The Portland peninsula is home to Maine’s largest city. The Native Americans who first inhabited it named it “Machigonne”, meaning Great Neck. In 1623, the first European to arrive was an English naval captain named Christopher Levett, who had been granted the land by the King to found a settlement in Casco Bay.

However, after returning to England, he failed to gain support for the settlement, and never returned. Fort Levett in the harbor is named for him.

In 1633, the Portland peninsula, then named Casco, was first permanently settled by the British, as a fishing and trading village. It’s waterfront soon became a mecca for shipping and trading companies. It was renamed Falmouth in 1658.

In 1775, during the Revolutionary War, Falmouth village was bombarded by the British Royal Navy, after being destroyed twice before by the Abenakis, and rebuilt.

In 1786, the citizens of Falmouth formed a separate town and named it Portland. Prohibition of trade with England, and the War of 1812 created difficult times for Portland, which had developed as a shipping center.

Maine became a state in 1820. Portland became it’s capital, and remained such until 1832 when Augusta became the capital.

The Grand Trunk Railway was completed in 1853, making Portland the primary seaport for Canadian exports. Six - hundred 19th century steam locomotives were manufactured by the Portland Company.

Portland has recovered from four fires, the most devastating having occurred on Independence Day, 1866, when most of the commercial buildings, half of the churches, and hundreds of homes were destroyed. Portland was almost completely rebuilt during the Victorian era, and has maintained much of it’s 19th century architecture, due to constant attention to landmark preservation.

Visitors can never run out of things to do in Portland. Although a small city, Portland offers the historical, recreational, and cultural activities of a major metropolitan region.

The Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House is open to the public. Built in 1785, it is the oldest standing structure on the Portland peninsula, and the only family residence to survive in the downtown business district. It was the boyhood home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the most famous men of his time. Original furnishings reflect the differences in style of the three generations who lived there. The House is preserved as a memorial to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his family.

Visitors throng to the “Old Port”, located along Portland Harbor and Casco Bay. A revitalized warehouse district, this vibrant old seaport has been reconstructed to 19th century Victorian splendor, with cobbled streets and quaint shops and restaurants in restored commercial buildings.

Portland is home to many cultural sites of interest, including the Portland Museum of Art, Portland Stage Company, and SPACE Gallery, to name a few.

A wide variety of tours are available, either on land or water. Whether it be a walking tour to Greater Portland landmarks or the many historic parks within the city, or a narrated trolley tour, or a cruise along Casco Bay, Portland has something for everyone.

Recreational opportunities are many, including whitewater rafting, deep-sea or fresh- water fishing, golfing, mountain climbing, biking, or hiking along any of Portland’s one-hundred miles of nature trails.
Portland has a national reputation for the quality if it’s restaurants, of which there are 230, offering visitors a wide dining selection.


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