June 20, 2012

What does $4.8 million get you? Your own island in Portland Harbor

Five beaches, three cottages and an 1800s-era fort make House Island 'magical.'

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — House Island went up for sale Tuesday afternoon, but before you get too excited about the prospect of island living, you may want to consider the asking price.

click image to enlarge

House Island has three cottages on it.

Photo by Steve Rubicam

Additional Photos Below

Related headlines


For more information and a slideshow of the House Island property, click here.

View our slideshow of five other Maine islands up for sale. Perhaps you'll find another island that suits your fancy.
View the slideshow

John Scribner, a real estate broker with LandVest Inc. of Portland, said the 24-acre island, its five beaches, an 1800s-era fort, two deep-water piers and three cottages are being offered for $4.85 million.

Scribner said it's all owned by Harold Cushing Jr., who began talks with LandVest about selling the property in Portland Harbor six months ago.

"The decision did not come lightly for him, but island living can be difficult living," Scribner said.

Cushing's family has owned House Island, a part of Portland, since 1954. Cushing's mother, Hilda Dudley, bought it after hearing that its new owner wanted to tear down Fort Scammel and sell its granite blocks to build the breakwater by Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland.

Fort Scammel was built in 1808, designed to defend the harbor. Its cannon batteries were built to protect the harbor's main shipping channel. The fort is still open for public tours, which are arranged through Cushing.

Of all the forts in Casco Bay, Fort Scammel is the only fort to be fired on in battle, by British privateers in 1813.

From 1907 to 1937, House Island was the site for an immigration quarantine station. It became known as the "Ellis Island of the North."

Three cottages, all built in 1907, remain on the island. A generator provides their electricity, and residents rely on fireplaces for warmth because there is no heat source.

Cushing and his older sister Karen Lannon occupy two of the cottages.

Drilled wells provide drinking water. Rainwater that is collected on the island is used for such tasks as watering gardens.

"There is nothing like this island on the entire Eastern Seaboard," Scribner said. "The place is magical."

House Island is near Whitehead Passage, between Peaks and Cushing islands. It offers unobstructed views of Portland's East End Beach from one side and the open ocean from the other.

Cushing, who is 62, declined to elaborate on why he decided to sell House Island, saying only, "Nothing is forever."

His annual property tax bill is just over $35,000, according to Scribner.

Cushing said that bill makes him one of Portland's top taxpayers, even though he receives no city services.

Cushing operates House Island Lobster Bakes and Tours, a business based on Portland's waterfront that caters events on the island and offers tours of the fort.

Cushing uses the St. Croix to operate the freight and mail run to Cushing Island. His other boat, the Chippewa, takes passengers to House Island.

He has made the Cushing Island mail run for more than 30 years, earning the nickname "Captain Hal."

Cushing said he loves House Island, its scenery and the solitude it offers, but the time has come to sell. His mother, his father and a sister are buried on the island.

Cushing said he won't be "low-balled" and plans to stand by the asking price of $4.85 million.

"There are a lot of people in the world with money," he said.

Asked what he plans to do after the sale, he replied, "I'll retire a couple of years after I'm dead."

Scribner said he is hopeful that he can negotiate a deal with a buyer that could preserve public access to Fort Scammel.

Such an arrangement might involve a partnership with a nonprofit group such as the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, he said.

"My goal is to find a buyer, and possibly an organization, that could continue to allow the public access to this historic treasure," he said.


Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: dhoey@pressherald.com


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

The 24-acre House Island, located in Portland Harbor, is near Whitehead Passage – between Peaks and Cushing islands. The property is owned by Harold Cushing Jr.

Photo by Dave Cleveland

click image to enlarge

This photographs made available by LandVest Inc. shows one of the structures on House Island in Casco Bay.

Photo by Steve Rubicam

click image to enlarge

Fort Scammell is also on House Island.

Photo by Steve Rubicam

click image to enlarge

This photograph made available by LandVest Inc. shows one of its five beaches.

Photo by Steve Rubicam


Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)