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Gateway to Vacationland

The Making of Portland, Maine

John F. Bauman

Publication Year: 2012

Situated on a peninsula jutting into picturesque Casco Bay, Portland has long been admired for its geographical setting—the “beautiful city by the sea,” as native son Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called it. At the same time, Portland’s deep, ice-free port has made it an ideal site for the development of coastal commerce and industry. Much of the city’s history, John F. Bauman shows, has been defined by the effort to reconcile the competing interests generated by these attributes—to balance the imperatives of economic growth with a desire to preserve Portland’s natural beauty. Caught in the crossfire of British and French imperial ambitions throughout the colonial era, Portland emerged as a prosperous shipbuilding center and locus of trade in the decades following the American Revolution. During the nineteenth century it became a busy railroad hub and winter port for Canadian grain until a devastating fire in 1866 reduced much of the city to ruins. Civic leaders responded by reinventing Portland as a tourist destination, building new hotels, parks, and promenades, and proclaiming it the “Gateway to Vacationland.” After losing its grain trade in the 1920s and suffering through the Great Depression, Portland withered in the years following World War II as it wrestled with the problems of deindustrialization, suburbanization, and an aging downtown. Efforts at urban renewal met with limited success until the 1980s, when a concerted plan of historic preservation and the restoration of the Old Port not only revived the tourist trade but eventually established Portland as one of America’s “most livable cities.”

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Title Page

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p. iii-iii

Copyright Page

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p. iv-iv

Dedication Page

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p. v-v

Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

List of Maps and Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

An author owes a debt of gratitude to many people. This book originated as my presidential address given in St. Louis at the 2003 biennial meeting of the Society for American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH). That address explored Portland, Maine’s Parkside neighborhood. I next studied another ...


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pp. xvii-xviii

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pp. 1-8

Come now, join an 1893 delegation of the Portland Board of Trade high atop the Observatory on Munjoy Hill. Look leftward, please, over Casco Bay and then just to the right toward Commercial Street see the vast Grand Trunk Railroad yards, the roundhouse, and the giant grain elevator. Those ...

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Chapter 1. From Beleaguered Outpost to Booming Port City, 1632–1860

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pp. 9-42

“In all of New England there is no pleasanter town than Portland, in the State of Maine.” Thus begins Samuel Longfellow’s Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It is an appropriate opening for a book about Samuel’s father, Henry Wadsworth, which includes the poet’s diaries, where Longfellow ceaselessly extols ...

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Chapter 2. Civil War, The Great Fire, and Reshaping Portland‘s Urban Image

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pp. 43-71

In 1855, with its deep, ice-free harbor, its bay studded with furled and unfurled white sails, its rail link to Canada secured, and early tourist arrivals from Philadelphia, Boston, and Montreal, Portland readied itself to compete with Boston for commercial supremacy. John Alfred Poor’s vision of his city ...

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Chapter 3. James Phinney Baxter‘s City, 1882–1896

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pp. 72-101

Portland never became a New England mill town. Instead, by 1880, Portland— within sight of Thoreau’s Maine woods, and the rugged, wave-battered, pine-tree-studded Maine coastline hallowed in Longfellow’s poems and in young Winslow Homer’s art—enshrined itself as the antidote to industrialism, ...

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Chapter 4. City Growth, City Problems, City Beautiful, 1893–1915

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pp. 101-139

A tourist on a sunny day in 1890 atop the Observatory on Munjoy Hill, gazing out over sparkling, sail-studded Casco Bay, might easily have basked in the beauty of the place. Prevailing southwesterly winds whisked away the relatively little sulfurous smoke from the Portland Company foundry. Bayside ...

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Chapter 5. The Sunrise Gateway in Depression and War

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pp. 140-171

In 1915—still headquartered at 34 Exchange Street—the Portland Board of Trade changed its name to the Chamber of Commerce of Maine. Simultaneously, it unveiled a vigorous new campaign to rebrand Portland as “The Sunrise Gateway.” The phrase captured the essence of the city which each ...

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Chapter 6. Postwar Portland, 1943–1965

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pp. 172-198

Maine’s Portland-born state historian Earle G. Shettleworth Jr. tells the story of a Portland merchant who in the 1950s sold books from a small, shabby Victorian storefront on Exchange Street. Nearby sat a clump of three or four moldering, half-vacant Italianate piles, their sills rotting and cornices sagging....

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Chapter 7. The Gateway Reborn, 1965–1985

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pp. 199-229

The currents of radical change that unraveled American culture in the 1960s transformed Portland politics and society, giving voice to Irish, Italian, and Armenian constituents rarely heard in the city’s Yankee past. Yet the sinews of Portland’s past as a city with a rich maritime history, a city ...

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Conclusion: Service City, Tourist City, Modern Portland

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pp. 230-236

By 1987, Portland had redefined itself as a modern service-oriented city, one whose now exquisitely preserved residential and commercial architecture, complete with a working waterfront, had restored the city to its nineteenth and early twentieth-century stature as a tourist destination. If it was no longer ...


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pp. 237-276


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pp. 277-285

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613761922
E-ISBN-10: 1613761929
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558499089
Print-ISBN-10: 1558499083

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 28 illus.
Publication Year: 2012