South Portland, Maine
|Incorporated (town)||March 15, 1895|
|Incorporated (city)||March 22, 1898|
|• Type||City Council and City Manager|
|• City Manager||Scott Morelli|
|• Mayor||Deqa Dhalac|
|• Total||14.01 sq mi (36.29 km2)|
|• Land||12.04 sq mi (31.19 km2)|
|• Water||1.97 sq mi (5.10 km2)|
|Elevation||23 ft (7 m)|
|• Density||2,200.10/sq mi (849.49/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-4 (EDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||0575893|
South Portland is a city in Cumberland County, Maine, United States, and is the fourth-largest city in the state, incorporated in 1898. As of the 2020 census, the city population was 26,498. Known for its working waterfront, South Portland is situated on Portland Harbor and overlooks the skyline of Portland and the islands of Casco Bay. Due to South Portland's close proximity to air, marine, rail, and highway transportation options, the city has become a center for retail and industry in the region.
Despite the name, South Portland was never part of the city of Portland, but rather part of Cape Elizabeth. It broke off in 1895. However, both Cape Elizabeth and Portland were once part of Falmouth. Cape Elizabeth, then including what later became South Portland, broke away from Falmouth in 1765. South Portland is a principal city of the Portland–South Portland–Biddeford metropolitan area.
South Portland was first colonized in 1630, and it grew to become a small residential community with many farms. The village was raided by natives in Father Rale's War (1724). In 1858, the City of Portland purchased land near the Fore River for the Forest City Cemetery. On March 15, 1895, it was incorporated as a town after it broke away from Cape Elizabeth, based on a disagreement on a future source of public drinking water. Three years later South Portland became a city, destined to receive its drinking water, like Portland, from Sebago Lake, while Cape Elizabeth used wells or other local sources.
On South Portland's waterfront is Fort Preble, which is a military fort established in 1808 to protect Portland Harbor. It was in operation during several American conflicts, including the United States Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Near Fort Preble is Spring Point Ledge Light, which was constructed by the federal government in 1897 to mark a dangerous rock ledge.
In 1940, the Todd-Bath Iron Shipbuilding Corp (later called the “East Yard”) was established to build cargo ships for Britain. When the United States became involved with World War II, the shipyard expanded to include the South Portland Shipbuilding Corp. (aka the “West Yard”), that later combined with the Todd-Bath yard to become the New England Shipbuilding Corporation. These shipyards built 236 of the 440 foot (134 m) long Liberty ships, more than 10 percent of all the Liberty ships constructed during the war years. At its peak, the shipyard employed some 30,000 people, including thousands of women, who took over the jobs vacated by men going into the service. The shipyard gradually ceased operations after the war ended in 1945. Remnants of the shipyards are visible, and there is a memorial to the shipyard and the workers at Bug Light Park. The park is also home to Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, commonly referred to as "Bug Light."
On July 11, 1944, at 4:45 PM, U.S. Army Lt. Phillip "Phee" Russell was attempting to land his Douglas A-26 Invader at the Portland-Westbrook Municipal Airport. For reasons that were never fully determined, Russell lost control of the plane and crashed into a trailer park in South Portland's Brick Hill neighborhood. 19 people were killed and 20 people were injured—mostly the families of South Portland shipyard workers—making it the worst aviation accident in Maine history. A Long Creek Air Tragedy Memorial was eventually erected to commemorate the crash and honor the victims, but not until 66 years later.
Over the last few decades, South Portland has become the retail capital of Maine. The Mill Creek shopping center, built in the 1950s, was the first such "strip mall" built in Maine: a line of stores under one long roof and a covered walkway. Mill Creek has changed and grown significantly since, but the original layout still forms the core of the stores. The area in Mill Creek known as the Waterfront Market sits at the base of the Casco Bay Bridge and attracts shoppers from Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and Portland.
The need for a large mall in Maine emerged in the 1960s, as Portland's downtown district could not accommodate the growing retail market. A former pig farm in South Portland was chosen as the site for the project because it was close to I-95 and convenient from Portland. Beginning construction of the Maine Mall in the late 1960s marked the start of a major transition in the western part of South Portland: from a rural, agrarian landscape to the large retail center that exists today.
The oldest neighborhood in South Portland, and its former "retail corridor", is Ferry Village. Prior to the Casco Bay Bridge (or the one it replaced, the Million Dollar Bridge), ferries transported people and goods back and forth across the harbor to Portland. The landscape and the makeup of residents in Ferry Village were forever changed upon the close of the WWII shipyards. The Village has slowly bounced back and is now one of the more popular places in the city to live.
Ferry Village also has one of the most active and involved neighborhood associations in Southern Maine. The Ferry Village Neighborhood Conservation Association (FVNCA) was formed in August 1985 to address the development boom in the 1980s which was quickly altering the character of the waterfront and many Greater Portland neighborhoods. FVNCA was instrumental in the formation of the South Portland Land Trust as well as the City-managed Land Bank which provides seed money for the acquisition of available open space.
After decades of neglect, the westernmost neighborhoods of South Portland, including Redbank and Brick Hill, experienced new growth and revitalization in 2006 with the redevelopment of the former Maine Youth Center site as a mixed-use neighborhood featuring affordable housing, market rate housing, professional offices and outdoor recreational spaces. The redevelopment of the Brick Hill site spurred additional private development nearby in the form of market rate housing, retail and light industry. The city's 2017 West End Master Plan aims to further encourage such development in that area of the city.
South Portland was voted one of the best places to live in Maine in 2018.
South Portland has a council-manager form of government.
The city council is made up of seven members elected by the citizens: one member from each of the five districts in the city, and two at-large members. Voters are allowed to vote for council candidates in all five districts, not just the district where they are registered to vote.
Every December, the members of the council elect one of themselves as mayor, which is primarily a ceremonial title. The mayor serves as chairman of the council.
The city council is responsible for establishing policy, passing local ordinances, voting appropriations, and developing an overall vision for the city.
The council appoints a city manager to oversee the daily operations of the government and implement the policies established by the council. The manager is an employee of the city and has a contract that specifies his or her duties and responsibilities. Ideally, the manager is considered apolitical.
|Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of June 2014|
In December 2007, then-mayor James Soule made headlines in Maine and across the country when he proposed in his inaugural address that South Portland, along with parts of southern Maine, secede from the state of Maine and form a new state. Soule referred to the state government of Maine as an "oppressive enemy" and said that South Portland, along with other southern Maine cities and towns, contributes much more to the state in tax revenue than it receives in education funding. "The state of Maine needs South Portland more than South Portland needs the state of Maine," Soule claimed.
Soule's proposal was panned by the congressional delegation and by Governor Baldacci, whose spokesman called it "silly" and "counterproductive."
The proposal did not gain any traction, and Soule did not continue to pursue it. Soule nominated himself for reelection as mayor in November 2008, but was defeated by Thomas Blake in a 6–1 vote. Soule voted for himself.
South Portland is bordered by Portland to the north, Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough to the south, and Westbrook to the west. The city is located at. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.02 square miles (36.31 km2), of which 11.99 square miles (31.05 km2) is land and 2.03 square miles (5.26 km2) is water.
The city-owned South Portland Bus Service provides public transportation throughout the city.
As defined by the city's Planning Department in a 2018 neighborhood map, South Portland comprises the following districts that could be described in some cases as urban or suburban villages, listed below in bold; historic neighborhoods are in italics.
South Portland's public school system has five neighborhood elementary schools: Brown School, Dyer School, Kaler School, Skillin School and Dora L. Small Elementary School. The city has two middle schools, Mahoney Middle School and Memorial Middle School. The city has one high school, South Portland High School, which has an enrollment of about 900 students.
South Portland has two private schools: Holy Cross School, which is a Roman Catholic K–8 school, and Greater Portland Christian School, which is a non-denominational Christian K–12 school.
South Portland also boasts three institutions of higher learning: Kaplan University, New England Bible College, and Southern Maine Community College.
Christian churches in the area include the First Baptist Church of South Portland (Baptist), Holy Cross Church (Roman Catholic), Peoples United Methodist Church and Thornton Heights United Methodist Church (Methodist), South Portland Church of the Nazarene (Nazarene), First Congregational Church of South Portland (United Church of Christ), Christ Fellowship Church, Eastpoint Christian Church and Greater Portland Church of Christ (Christian, nondenominational).
There is also a Buddhist Peace Center, and a Reform Judaism congregation locally.
There are several local media groups that report on the news of the city. The South Portland Sentry offers a free newspaper that covers the city's events and news. It has a circulation of 17,000 and is distributed to residents free of charge. Regional newspapers such as The Current and The Forecaster cover South Portland issues and events, while also serving the communities of Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough. The city also has a local Public-access television cable TV television station, SPC-TV which is sponsored by the city and is broadcast on Time Warner Cable's channel 2.
Media coverage for South Portland is also provided by Portland's television stations, radio stations, and periodicals.
While the city is considered suburban, it also has a diverse economy, as evidenced by its working waterfront and large retail center.
Home to the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, millions of barrels of oil are shipped to South Portland each year, which is a major portion of the inbound tonnage entering the Port of Portland. It is the northernmost oil port in the United States, and has over 120 oil storage tanks. Tank farm emissions such as benzene and Naphthalene have been a concern, and sea level rise projections show a 27% chance that the South Portland Terminal will flood by 2050.
Rigby Yard, the largest railroad yard in New England, built by Portland Terminal Company in 1922, is still in operation today and is part of the Pan Am Railways system.
The city is also home to manufacturing facilities for the technology companies ON Semiconductor (formerly Fairchild Semiconductor), and Texas Instruments (formerly National Semiconductor).
The Maine Mall is the largest and busiest mall in the state and attracts thousands of shoppers each year.
The main runway of Maine's busiest airport, the Portland International Jetport, is located within the city of South Portland. The passenger terminal is located within the city of Portland.
South Portland has a number of parks and open spaces. One of the main features of South Portland is the historic Greenbelt walkway, which is a three-mile (5 km) paved trail that crosses through several neighborhoods and provides views of the harbor. Mill Creek Park is located in South Portland's downtown area and has landscaped pond area and rose garden. The park hosts several local events, including summer concerts, Art in the Park, holiday tree lighting and ice skating in the winter. Other local parks include Wainwright Farm, which is a recreational facility and Hinckley Park which is a 40-acre (160,000 m2) wooded area that has two ponds. The city's waterfront has several recreational marinas and is home to the last free beach in the area, Willard Beach.
As of the census of 2010, there were 25,002 people, 10,877 households, and 6,197 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,085.2 inhabitants per square mile (805.1/km2). There were 11,484 housing units at an average density of 957.8 per square mile (369.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 91.1% White, 2.1% African American, 0.3% Native American, 3.8% Asian, 0.8% from other races, and 2.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.2% of the population.
There were 10,877 households, of which 27.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.6% were married couples living together, 12.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.4% had a male householder with no wife present, and 43.0% were non-families. 31.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.84.
The median age in the city was 39.4 years. 20.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 9.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 28.4% were from 25 to 44; 27.8% were from 45 to 64; and 13.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.7% male and 52.3% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 23,324 people, 10,047 households, and 6,038 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,944.7 people per square mile (751.1/km2). There were 10,349 housing units at an average density of 862.9 per square mile (333.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 95.80% White, 0.63% African American, 0.33% Native American, 1.59% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.31% from other races, and 1.31% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.13% of the population.
There were 10,047 households, out of which 27.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.1% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.9% were non-families. 30.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.85.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 22.3% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 32.2% from 25 to 44, 23.1% from 45 to 64, and 14.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $42,770, and the median income for a family was $52,833. Males had a median income of $32,256 versus $28,630 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,781. About 4.9% of families and 6.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.5% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.
The new zoning regulation for the Park City – so-called for its 15 public green spaces, including scenic Bug Light Park next to, and largely owned by PPL — bans bulk loading of all crude oil onto ships. It also bans construction of infrastructure needed for that purpose.
SoPo, as it’s called, is a city unto itself, a former shipbuilding center with a working waterfront that feels like a beach town.
It happened at 4:45 p.m. on July 11, 1944.