Greater Portland Visitor's Guide

ISLAND TIME 1870

Although Greater Portland’s numerous harbor islands were dubbed the Calendar Islands, after an early explorer described their number as being “as many as there are days of the year,” ferry service wasn’t established between the city and the more populated off-shore communities until 50 years after statehood. Regular scheduled service began in 1878 with the popularity of leisure travel among the wealthy during the Gilded Age. Up to 1,000 summer visitors at a time were transported to cottages and luxurious hotels on the islands of Casco Bay. Competing ferry lines merged in 1909 and, following the economic hardships after WWI, formed Casco Bay Lines in the winter of 1919-1920. The distinctive black, yellow, white, and red boats leave from Maine State Pier servicing seven islands with year-round residents, along with several others during the summer season, and running their daily Mail Boat—the oldest continually operating postal service of its kind in the U.S. (More on p. 71)

END OF AN ERA 1860-1865

PHOENIX RISING 1866

In 1860, Victoria Mansion was built as a summer escape from the Louisiana heat (and Yellow Fever) by Ruggles Sylvester Morse, a prominent Mainer whose fortune was made as a luxury hotelier in New Orleans. This Brownstone “cottage” boats seven hand-carved marble fireplaces, a flying staircase, and furniture created specifically for each room. At its completion, the Civil War broke out, and Ruggles and his wife were not able to come north to enjoy their new home for years. The Victoria Society was formed to save the house from being demolished in order to build a gas station. Beautifully restored, the home and its contents are over 90% original. (More on p. 25)

Independence Day celebrations marking the end of the Civil War were memorable, but not in the way expected. When fireworks on a downtown wharf set woodchips ablaze, the resulting inferno destroyed 75% of the city. The prosperous global seaport quickly rebuilt with cast iron and red brick. Corner- stones on many Old Port buildings show the original date of the business before the fire, followed by the year of its rebuilding. After the Great Fire, as the latest blaze to incinerate the city became known, Portland adopted the Phoenix —the mythical bird that goes up in flames only to rise more beautiful and stronger than before—as its symbol.

PHOTOS, FROM LEFT: ROBERT WITKOWSKI (2); COURTESY VICTORIA MANSION/J. DAVID BOHL; COREY TEMPLETON (2)

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