Portland, Maine, the original Portland, I might add, is a city that’s perfect for everyone. Nestled in the remnants of a rich history lies a community bursting with passion, originality, flavor, and tradition. Located in the cobblestone-clad Old Port, you’ll find some of the nations best restaurants, shops, and breweries, and just beyond that, you’ll find yourself taking in the view of one of America’s oldest harbours. If mouth-watering food and stunning vistas aren’t your thing, then you may just find yourself attending a game for one of our three professional sports teams, The Portland Sea Dogs, the AA affiliate team of the Boston Red Sox, the Maine Red Claws, the affiliate team of the Boston Celtics, or the Maine Mariners, who battle it out on the ice in the ECHL. If, after all that excitement, you feel like stretching your legs on a nice hike or kicking back and relaxing at one of Maine’s beautiful beaches or lakes, Portland is located only a short distance from some of the best outdoor recreation in the whole country. So whether you’re looking for a bite to eat, some afternoon entertainment, or scenery that leaves you speechless, look no further than Portland, the center of Maine culture.
Portland is a city that’s steeped in a long and rich history. From the original cobblestone streets that line the downtown to the cannon encampments and fort ruins that have survived from the days of the Civil War and the American Revolution, the city is a constant reminder of our past. Originally, the city was called Machigonne by natives known as the Algonquians who were the inhabitants of the land during European contact in the sixteenth century. However, there is evidence of a Native American presence in Maine as far back at 11,000 BCE, making it impossible to determine Portland’s original inhabitants. The first permanent settlement was established in 1633 and named Casco. The Massachusetts Bay Colony gained control of the area in 1658 and renamed it Falmouth. In 1676, Portland was burned to the ground in a raid by the Abenaki people during King Philip’s War, leaving the land unoccupied for two years until the return of English colonists in 1678. The city was again destroyed in 1690 by a combination of Native and French soldiers during King William’s War, this time dispelling the English for another ten years. The area called Falmouth managed to avoid further disaster for just under 100 years, until the the 18th of October, 1775. In retaliation for the battles of Lexington and Concord, the British Royal Navy dispatched the HMS Canceaux, under the command of Lieutenant Henry Mowat, to attack the growing port city. After nine hours of constant bombardment, the event that came to be known as the Burning of Falmouth left nearly 75% of the town in ashes. Shortly after the war, an area of land called “The Neck” broke off from Falmouth to form their own town off the back of a booming commercial and shipping port. This piece of land called itself Portland. In June of 1863, The Battle of Portland Harbor was fought between the Union and the Confederacy when a small group of Confederate soldiers, disguised as fisherman, seized control of a cutter named the USRC Caleb Cushing and attempted to flee with over $100,000 in Union bonds. Then mayor of Portland, Jacob McLellan, aboard the Forest City and accompanied by 100 civilian volunteers, caught up with the hijacked cutter. In an attempt to flee, Confederate Lieutenant Charles Reed and his 24 men fled in lifeboats, hoping to cover their escape by igniting the remaining munitions on the stolen cutter, destroying it. The men were apprehended by McLellan and later moved to Fort Warren in Boston after rising public anger towards the South threatened the safety of the prisoners and the soldiers tasked with guarding them. Still seemingly plagued with bad luck, Portland would burn down one more time in the summer of 1866. This time, however, it was not caused by raids or military attacks, but by an accident the occurred on the fourth of July during the annual Independence Day celebrations. Started by fireworks, The Great Fire of 1866 ravaged the city, destroying over 1,800 buildings, including churches, homes, and commercial locations, and leaving an estimated 10,000 people without a home. Following The Great Fire, a collection of well-known architects stepped in and shaped the landscape into the city as we know it today, adding Federal style buildings, Victorian mansions, gothic style cottages, along with a wide array of ornate residential buildings. In the time since The Great Fire, Portland has seen tremendous growth and improvement, and has remained an important historical and military landmark, using its position as the closest U.S. Atlantic port to Europe to serve the country as a base of Naval operations throughout the 19th and 20th century. The city of Portland and its inhabitants are resilient and proud, wearing their triumph over adversity as a badge of honor, as can be seen in the city’s flag, which depicts a phoenix rising out of ashes and the latin saying, Resurgam, meaning “I Shall Rise Again.” This historic city now attracts attention from all around the globe for it’s vistas, culinary scene, and it’s combination of eclectic city life and the natural beauty that makes Maine such a wonderful place to visit.
Here’s just a quick list of some of our personal favorite places to visit in Portland. Feel free to try them out for yourselves, or if you’re feeling adventurous, explore on your own and tell us about some of your favorite places. We’d love to hear from you!
Deering Oaks Park
East End Beach
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