Did you know that…
1. Over one million people live in the Portland metro region, or a full one third of the state’s population.
2. Portland is named for the small British Isle of Portland along England’s southern coast. It’s not very big–only 4 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, but it’s home to 12,000 people.
3. Portland, Oregon, settled in the 1830’s, was named in turn for our Portland.
4. Native Americans called Portland “Machigonne,” an Algonquian meaning “great neck.”
5. In 1623, English Captain Christopher Levett was granted permission to found a settlement at Casco Bay. After building a stone house, he left his company of ten men behind to return to England to drum up support for the new settlement. The settlement failed and it’s unknown what happened to Levett’s men.
6. Fort Levett on Cushing Island was named in his honor. Construction began on the fort in 1898 in the wake of the Spanish-American War. The fort’s guns were scrapped after World War II and the land was eventually sold.
7. Portland is the home of B&M Baked Beans, which have been made in the city since 1867. The factory sits at One Bean Pot Circle, just off of Casco Bay.
8. In 2009, Bon Appétit magazine named Portland America’s foodiest small town. With over 230 restaurants, the city has one of the nation’s highest restaurants per capita rate.
9. The original telescope inside the Portland Observatory could spot ships 30 miles out to sea. It disappeared in 1939.
10. The Eastern Promenade was designed in 1836 by the Olmstead Brothers. They were the sons of noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York City’s Central Park.
11. A mass grave is located underneath the park. Twenty-one American soldiers taken prisoner during the War of 1812 were buried at the foot of Quebec Street. A large bolder (which now also has a plaque on it) marks the spot of their burial.
12. Completed in 1791, the Portland Headlight is the oldest lighthouse in Maine. It’s still in use though completely automated and run by the U.S. Coast Guard.
13. The first keeper of the Portland Headlight, Joseph K. Greenleaf, was appointed by George Washington.
14. Turkey’s Bridge, which connects the downtown area and East Deering, is named for 18-century Back Cove tavern keeper and tax collector Lemuel Tukey.
15. With 7,000 students, the Portland Public School District is the largest in Maine.
16. Two of the city’s high schools were founded in the 19th century. Deering High School was first established in 1874; Portland High School goes back to 1821. It claims to be the older operating high school in the country.
17. Deering was originally its own city. It was annexed by Portland in 1898 even though residents voted against and annexation.
18. Baxter Boulevard, which lines Back Cove, was named for former Portland Mayor James Phinney Baxter. Mayor for six year, Baxter was a driving force behind the parkway.
19. Baxter was also an avid historian, and even wrote a book on Captain Levett (see #5).
20. Baxter’s son and Portland native Percival P. Baxter would eventually serve as the state’s governor and donate the land that would become Baxter State Park.
21. South Portland, despite its name, was never a part of Portland. It actually broke away from Port Elizabeth about the same time Portland annexed Deering.
22. Sebago Lake is the deepest lake in the state. It’s also the second largest in the state, behind only Moosehead Lake in the state’s north central region.
23. It’s also the Portland region’s primary water supply. Some 15% of all Mainers get their water from Sebago Lake.
24. The land the Maine Mall sits on in South Portland was once a pig farm.
25. The flagship store of Porteous, a beloved department store in downtown Portland, closed not long after the Maine Mall opened in 1971. Its former building is now the Maine College of Art.
26. During construction of the Casco Bay Bridge in 1996, a Liberian oil tanker hit the bridge the new bridge was replacing, the Million Dollar Bridge. The Julie N. spewed 179,600 gallons of petroluem into the Fore River, which was mostly sent upstream thanks to the wind and ocean currents.
27. The clean-up from that oil spill cost $43 million and some 20% of the oil was never recovered.
28. In December 2007 the mayor of South Portland proposed that the city and other Southern Maine towns secede from the state of Maine. The proposal failed.
29. Peaks Island has tried to secede from the city of Portland at least six times, the first time in 1883 and most recently in 2011.
30. Jean Stapleton, who would eventually become a household name for her portrayal of Archie Bunker’s wife Edith on the CBS sitcom “All in the Family,” made her first professional appearance as an actor in a theatre on Peaks Island.
31. The island was also home to a massive defensive fortification during the first part of the 20th century. Its said that when the guns at the now abandoned Battery Steele were fired, they shattered glass windows on the other side of the island.
32. The Portland Museum of Art includes among its collection works by René Magritte, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Auguste Rodin.
33. Cape Elizabeth was renamed by Britian’s King Charles I, who was presented a map of New England by John Smith. Smith had labeled the map with Native American names but urged the king to change any of the “barbarous names.” He named Cape Elizabeth for his sister, Elizabeth of Bohemia.
34. 19th century writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland and published his first poem, “The Battle of Lovell’s Pond”, in the Portland Gazette on November 17, 1820. He just 13 years old.
35. A massive fire in 1866 destroyed most of downtown Portland. 1,800 buildings were destroyed and 10,000 people were left homeless. The fire ignited during 4th of July celebrations.
36. The city of Portland has actually burned several times. The city’s seal depicts a phoenix rising from ashes under the city’s motto, “Resurgam.” (That’s Latin for “I will rise again.”)
37. When Maine became at state in 1820, Portland was its first capital. The honor moved to Augusta, however, in 1832.
38. Hadlock Field, the home of the Boston Red Sox farm team the Portland Seadogs, is a named after Edson J. Hadlock, Jr. He was a long-time baseball coach and physics teacher at Portland High School.
39. The Portland Exposition Building is the second oldest arena in continuous operation in the country. Only Matthews Arena in Boston has been in use longer.
40. On a clear day you can see New Hampshire’s Mount Washington from the Western Promenade, nearly 70 miles away.
41. In 2013, voters in Portland approved a measure allowing private recreational use of marijuana. It was the first east coast city to do so.