An advertisement from 1950 indicates that evergreens and shrubs will be “freshly dug while you wait” at the nursery at 854 Main St. South Portland Historical Society image

We are hoping to find some current or former residents who can help us learn more and document a long-running South Portland business, Wallace Nurseries. While we originally thought this was just a florist business, through advertisements we have found that the Wallace family offered a lot more than just flowers for weddings, funerals and special occasions.

Alexander Wallace was born in Scotland in 1858 and apprenticed there as a florist and nurseryman. He immigrated to the United States and moved to Portland around 1883. He worked at first as a landscape gardener in the Western Promenade area of the Portland peninsula. Around 1898, he founded his retail florist business, Wallace Greenhouses, on Emery Street in Portland.

Around 1920, he founded another business, Wallace Nurseries at 854 Main St. in South Portland, when his sons, George and Clinton, joined him in the business.

Wallace Nurseries was in business here for more than 30 years, so it is surprising how little has been documented on this florist/nursery business. We can tell from newspaper advertisements that, in addition to operating as a retail florist, the business also was a full-line nursery. In a 1940 advertisement, they claimed to be “Maine’s largest ornamental nursery.” They sold perennials, rose bushes, trees, hedges and other shrubs.

Thank you to society volunteer Jackie Dunham for her research assistance on the Wallace family and their business in South Portland.

We could really use your help.

Do you remember this business or do you know someone else who does? Do you have any photographs that would give us a glimpse of what Wallace Nurseries looked like on Main Street? Do you have anything that would help to document the business – a funeral condolence card, a letter from the business, a receipt? We would love to hear from you.

The South Portland Historical Society can be reached at 207-767-7299, by email at [email protected], or by mail at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106.

Cushing’s Point Museum

Due to the pandemic, we will be unable to open the society’s museum in Bug Light Park in May. The health and safety of our volunteers is our top priority, so we will open the museum only when it is deemed safe to do so. When we are ready to open the museum, an announcement will be made in this column.

While the museum is closed, we still have some volunteers working from home and I am still able to work from my office in the museum. Our work to collect and preserve history is at the core of our mission. We can still accept donations of photographs, artifacts and other pieces of our community’s past; please call or email us to schedule a time for a non-contact drop-off of your donation.

Bug Light Kite Festival

We have also postponed the Bug Light Kite Festival. We have worked with the volunteers from the NorEasters Kite Club and Kites Over New England and have come up with a new date for this fall – Saturday, Oct. 20. As the date approaches, announcements related to the festival will be made on our Facebook page: South Portland Historical Society.

There is also a Facebook page set up specifically for the kite festival with an event listing that can be added to your calendar. Let’s all hope that we can proceed with the new date as this festival has become a tradition for so many South Portland families.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is director of the South Portland Historical Society.

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