Wander into the Portland Co. complex and you’ll find yourself between two buildings that span 130 years of manufacturing and industry on the Portland waterfront.

On the right is the first building erected in 1847 for constructing locomotives and rolling stock, spurred by John Poore’s vision of Portland as a transportation hub rivaling Boston. With the companion Grand Trunk Railway, Portland became the winter port for eastern Canada.

On the left is Building No. 1, constructed in 1918 incorporating new techniques in industrial architecture and design.

Its cavernous workshop housed equipment and projects more ambitious than those envisioned two generations earlier. It exemplifies Portland’s participation in the Industrial Age, shipping engines and metal products via sea and rail.

The two buildings bookend the little-known story of Portland’s industrial history. In between are other essential buildings documenting the company’s success in market expansion and diversification. Nowhere else in Portland is the story of transportation and industry told so clearly.

The historic district nomination by the city’s Historic Preservation Board signals the importance of understanding the company as a 20th century enterprise by including Building No. 1 as an essential component.

I welcome the proposed mixed-use redevelopment of the Portland Co. complex, overdue in securing this property for the modern age.

However, when the Planning Board recommended removing Building No. 1 from the proposed district, it sabotaged the effort to honor the site’s full significance in favor of the developer’s attempt to avoid a challenging project.

This is the chance of a lifetime to teach future generations of a lost era on the waterfront. I urge the City Council to amend the Planning Board’s recommendations and to endorse the Historic Preservation Board’s original recommendations to include Building No. 1 in the proposed Portland Co. historic district.

Elizabeth Miller


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