The largest city in Maine, PORTLAND was founded in 1632 in a superb position on the Casco Bay Peninsula, and quickly prospered, building ships and exporting great inland pines for use as masts. A long line of wooden wharves stretched along the seafront, with the merchants’ houses on the hillside above.
From its earliest days, Portland was a cosmopolitan city. When the railroads came in the 1840s, the Canada Trunk Line had its terminus right on Portland’s quayside, bringing the produce of Canada and the Great Plains one hundred miles closer to Europe than it would have been at any other major US port. Custom House Wharf remains much as it must have looked when novelist Anthony Trollope passed through in 1861 and said, “I doubt whether I ever saw a town with more evident signs of prosperity”.
As with much of New England, the good times didn’t last through the mid-twentieth century. Grand Trunk Station was torn down in 1966, and downtown Portland appeared to be in terminal decline – until, that is, a group of committed residents undertook the energetic redevelopment of the area now known as the Old Port. Their success has revitalized the city, keeping it at the heart of Maine life – though you shouldn’t expect a hive of energy. Portland is quite simply a pleasant, sophisticated and very attractive town, where you can experience the benefits of a large city at a lesser cost and without the hassle of crowds.