Portland’s Historic Preservation Board will listen to a proposal Wednesday to construct a 21-site campground on the southern side of historic House Island, where Fort Scammell, built in 1808, is located.

“Fort Scammell is an amazing historic site, which historically has been vastly underutilized. We propose to build a campground that celebrates the history of the site through an immersive, educational experience that is truly unique. We have designed a campground that we feel is very much in harmony with the island and its topographic and historical features,” wrote Stefan Scarks, representing Fortland LLC, the project’s developers.

The campground would have a “high level of amenities, consistent with other resort camping facilities,” according to the proposal.

The development would consist of 21 temporary structures, including yurts, canvas tents, and timber-canvas hybrid structures. There would also be a community building, bathroom, storage shed and water pump shed.

Fort Scammell was built on the island’s western side to defend Portland Harbor’s shipping channel, and it was used in that capacity through the Civil War.

The Scarks family owns the southern half of the island, while the northeastern half of the island is owned by Christina and Vincent Mona of Naples, Florida. It was announced in January that the Monas have plans to use the northeastern half of the island for solar-powered weddings and corporate retreats.


Greater Portland Landmarks, a nonprofit that aims to preserve historic sites, put the island on its “Places in Peril” list in 2012, citing its architectural, cultural and historical significance.

Fort Scammell saw action in 1813 when American soldiers shot at British privateers who were stealing a private sloop during the War of 1812.

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

“Three residential-scale buildings on the northern half of House Island were known as ‘the Ellis Island of the North,’ serving as a federal immigration quarantine station from 1907-1937,” according to Greater Portland Landmarks’ website.

Deborah Andrews, historic preservation program manager for the city of Portland, wrote in a July 27 memo to the preservation board that the proposal is “promising.”

“First, a campground will bring visitors out to experience this important historic resource, something that cannot be guaranteed on a privately-owned island,” Andrews wrote. “Second, active use creates an incentive to maintain the resource itself. And finally, it is likely that this type of development could be designed so as to introduce fewer permanent physical alterations than many other potential uses.”


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 Historic Preservation Board will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Room 209 of City Hall.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: joelawlorph

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