Creating Portland: History and Place in Northern New England
Joseph A. Conforti
UPNE, Aug 31, 2007 - History - 388 pages
Portland, the largest city in Maine, has recently become one of the most popular destinations in the United States. Named one of New England’s most livable cities, Portland has grown over the past quarter century into a major regional center and international tourist mecca.
From the colonial period, Portland has been defined by its diverse array of peoples. Native American inhabitants possessed a strong sense of place rooted in spiritual beliefs, environmental practices, and tribal lore. Puritans, Quakers, and Baptists brought religious diversity to Colonial Falmouth (one of several early names for Portland). By the late eighteenth century, free blacks formed an important community. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Irish, Italian, Greek, and Jewish immigrants made their way to Portland. Today, more recent immigrants include individuals from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In addition, Portland has a thriving gay community.
Geography, history, and public policy all shaped modern Portland. The core of the city is on a peninsula with a protected harbor on Casco Bay. Across time, Portland residents have exploited geography to develop a natural resource economy. Portland has been a fur trading post, a fishing center, a lumbering and shipbuilding community, a commercial entrepot, and a tourist destination. Portland’s proximity to the sea has been the overriding factor in its development, and is a central theme of the historical essays in this volume.
A model of contemporary place studies, Creating Portland brings together essays by fourteen scholars on the history, geography, arts, literature, and built environment of Portland over the course of three centuries. Illuminating Portland within the larger context of New England regionalism, and unified by a focus on Portland as a living, changing urban center, Creating Portland is an invaluable guide to the city and a resource for scholars, students, residents, and tourists.
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