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Portland History, Maine

Situated at the mouth of Fore River, Portland is a historic port at the Atlantic and the largest city in the state of Maine, US. Portland history can be seen as a story of destruction and renewal: across its almost four centuries of existence, the city was destroyed and rebuilt several times.

Portland History – Portland in Pioneering Times

The area of the present day Portland was inhabited before the discovery of America by a Native American tribe named Abenaki. The Abenaki people used to call the peninsula Machigonne (‘great neck’). The first European to settle around Casco Bay was Christopher Levett, in 1623. Unfortunately, Levett died during his trip back to England and didn’t succeed in attracting other settlers. Ten years later, George Cleeve and Richard Tucker established a fishing and trading village on the same spot, and named it ‘Casco’. By the end of the 17th century, Casco, later renamed ‘Falmouth’, had been twice destroyed by the Abenaki and then rebuilt. During the War of Independence, the British Navy bombed Falmouth to the grounds. Portland was established as a distinctive town in the area known as Falmouth Neck in 1786. By 1820, Portland was chosen as the capital of the newly formed state of Maine.

Portland History – Portland in the 19th Century

In the second half of the 19th century, Portland authorities adopted a law that prohibited the free distribution and commercialization of alcohol. The example was soon followed by the other states, but lead to the 1855 Portland Rum Riot. As a consequence of the street protests, the law was revoked in the following year. Portland grew up as an important maritime knot in the commerce with Canada and became one the country’s leading steam locomotive manufacturers. In 1866, the fireworks used to celebrate Independence Day got out of control and ignited a huge fire, which destroyed most of the city.

Portland History – Portland’s Reconstruction

Portland’s history in the 20th century followed the way of reconstruction: numerous architects have worked to give Portland its current picturesque air, with Victorian, Romanesque, Colonial Revival and Federal style buildings. Much of the Victorian houses have been preserved, as well as the Old Port, reconstructed to its 19th century aspect. Proud of the rich history and of the regenerative powers of their native town, the inhabitants of Portland have chosen as a city motto the word “Resurgam”, which is Latin for “I will rise again”. If you want to know more about Portland’s attractions you can read about Portland Sights and Portland Nightlife.

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