South Portland, Maine

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South Portland is a city in Cumberland County, Maine, United States, and is the fourth-largest city in the state. Founded in 1895, as of the 2000 census, the city population was 23,324. 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 and highway transportation options, the city has become a center for retail and industry in the region.

South Portland is a principal city of the Portland–South Portland–Biddeford, Maine Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Contents

History

South Portland was first settled in 1630, and it grew to become a small residential community with many farms. 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."

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