Over the centuries, historic House Island has been used as a military fort, a fish processing hub and an immigration station.

Now the owners of the northeastern half of the 24-acre island in Portland Harbor have a new plan for the property with a 21st century twist: a solar-powered venue for weddings and corporate retreats.

The latest island iteration has drawn praise from at least one of those concerned about the House Island’s fate.

“Its an intriguing possibility,” said Hilary Bassett, executive director of the Greater Portland Landmarks.

The island, the site of Maine’s only military action during the War of 1812, was the center of concern by historic preservationists worried about development when it went on the market in 2012 for $4.8 million after more than 50 years of ownership by the Cushing family. Greater Portland Landmarks put the island on its “Places in Peril” list in 2012, citing its architectural, cultural and historical significance.

Charles Haddock and his daughter, Elisia Townsend, will help set up weddings on House Island.

In 2015 the Portland City Council unanimously granted historic status to the island, which limits the type of development allowed and increased the scrutiny of development on the island during any planning and application process.


The late Portland developer Michael Scarks bought the 13-acre northeastern half of the island for $2.5 million in 2014 and the other half for $500,000.

The northeastern half of the island was resold later that year for $2.2 million to Christina and Vincent Mona, who are Naples, Florida, real estate developers and owners of Palms Design Build LLC. Ten months later, in 2015, it was on the market again for $6.9 million.

A navigation beacon stands on the northern end of House Island, while Peaks Island, left, and Cushing Island, top right, are silhouetted in the background. The private property on House Island has changed ownership.

A navigation beacon stands on the northern end of House Island, while Peaks Island, left, and Cushing Island, top right, are silhouetted in the background. The private property on House Island has changed ownership.

Now the Monas, who took the property off the market last year, are renting it out for weddings and retreats. The Monas remodeled the lot’s three early-20th century cottages, which were part of an immigration station established on the island in 1905, and installed a new boat dock.

The island is imbued with history. Fort Scammell was built on the island in 1808 to defend Portland Harbor’s main shipping channel and saw action in 1813 when American soldiers shot at British privateers who were stealing a private sloop.

Two Portland fishing families used it for much of the 1800s to process cod and other groundfish.

The federal government bought the island in 1905 to use as an immigration station, which historians have called the Ellis Island of the North.


Bassett said the historic designation was timely.

565826_623225-HouseIslandMap0115“The owners have done a great job in working with the historic preservation review process in rehabilitating the immigration station buildings,” Bassett said Sunday.

She said the new use of the lot as a wedding venue and corporate retreat would allow the public to experience the historic nature of the island in a positive way.

“It is great to have the buildings used and appreciated, from the point of preservation,” Bassett said.

Managers for the wedding venue say the island will draw people who appreciate the coast.

“It is a private island with a sense of solitude and privacy,” said Charles Haddock of Windham. He and his daughter, Elisha Townsend of Addison, who own Simple Elegance of Maine, a florist and wedding planning service, are managers for House Island weddings and events.

At least one party, a Maine couple, have already booked the venue for a 200-person wedding in August.

The rental price for the venue, which includes the guest houses, is about $45,000 for a five-day stay. A one-day rental, without the cottages, is about $8,000 to $12,000. It is unclear whether there are new plans for the southern end of the island, which houses the fort, Bassett said. The southern end is still owned by the Scarks family. Efforts to reach the family Sunday were unsuccessful.

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