A Magical Day in History

What a fantastic day! Under sunny blue skies on Saturday, May 21 our second annual Magical History Tour gave over 700 history fans access to historical sites through Portland that are usually off limits to the public. Thank you so much to all of the wonderful sites and intrepid volunteers for helping us make our big event a huge success!

For those who weren’t able to join us, see below for a slideshow of fantastic photos submitted by tour-goers, and a description of what was on display at each site. Visit us on Facebook for photos from Mr. Longfellow’s Cocktail Party.

We can’t wait for next year! Where do you think we should go? Let us know: events@mainehistory.org.

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A.B. Butler House (Frannie Peabody Home): 4 Walker St.
Guests stepped inside the former home of AIDS activist Frannie Peabody (1903-2001) and experienced firsthand its charming, historic elegance including spectacular trompe l’oeil painting and murals throughout the house. Built in 1868 for a prominent dry goods merchant, this house is a remarkable example of period architecture furnished with a contemporary aesthetic.

Abyssinian Meeting House: 75 Newbury St.
On view was the ongoing restoration of the third oldest African American meeting house in the nation after it sat vacant for many years. Built by free blacks between 1828-1831, this is the only officially recognized Underground Railroad site in Maine. Members and preachers included former enslaved people, leaders of the Underground Railroad movement, and advocates for the abolition of slavery. Learn more about this site.

Baxter Library / VIA Agency: 619 Congress St.
Completed in 1888, here was the home of the Portland Public Library until 1978, followed by Maine College of Art until 2010, and today is occupied by the VIA Agency. We discovered the modern twist a successful advertising and marketing company applies to this historic framework. Learn more about this site. Learn more about this site.

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church: 133 Pleasant St.
Built by Methodists in 1828, the church was purchased by the Hellenic Orthodox Community of Portland in 1926. Tour-goers saw a remarkable ambience featuring dazzling décor, hand-crafted stained glass windows, exquisite Byzantine Orthodox icons, and one of only 13 Liberty Bells cast by the Paul Revere Foundry. Learn more about this site.

Mechanics Hall: 519 Congress St.
The Maine Charitable Mechanic Association was founded in 1815 to teach and promote excellence among Portland’s various mechanical and artistic trades. Its headquarters are Mechanics Hall, built by its members in 1859. We explored the top-floor dining hall used in 1861 as a mustering station for Civil War soldiers – normally closed to the public ­– as well as the historic library and grand ballroom. Learn more about this site.

MHS Collections Management Facility: 1000 Riverside St.
At Maine Historical Society’s new state-of-the-art collections management facility, guests saw amazing artifacts from massive electrical generators to ornate furniture, and learned about the process of housing thousands of delicate historical items from our nearly 200-year-old organization.

Portland Police Department: 109 Middle St.
Officers of the law had communication systems in place long before radios and walkie-talkies, including call boxes installed onto city sidewalks, one of which has been restored and is on view today. Participants didn’t let those unpaid parking tickets stop them from seeing and learning more about historical police work in Portland directly from the source.

Tate House: 1267 Westbrook St.
Built for Captain George Tate and his family in 1755, this was the largest and most elegant home in the Stroudwater section of what later became Portland. Tour-goers enjoyed a visit to the attic – usually closed to the public – unique Georgian architecture, 18th-century furnishings, and a contemporary plant sale. Learn more about this site.

U.S. Custom House: 312 Fore St.
Built between 1867 and 1872 to house offices of the U.S. Customs Service, here is a true testament to Portland’s maritime history. Exploring this three story edifice constructed of New Hampshire granite, we took in a gorgeous view of the Old Port from the cupola, and learned about the building’s rich history, unique purpose, and prominent occupants.

Westward Schooner (Portland Yacht Services): 100 West Commercial St.
Millionaire yachtsman Dayton Cochran of Long Island, NY had the Westward built in Germany in 1961. Cochran commissioned the 125-foot steel-hulled schooner as a private yacht for around-the world service. In 2003, the Ocean Classroom Foundation purchased the Westward for use as a training vessel for their students. When the nonprofit closed in 2014, Phineas Sprague assumed ownership of the yacht and has been lovingly restoring it ever since.

Woodfords Club: 179 Woodford St.
Organized in 1913, the clubhouse was expanded in 1923 to accommodate an increasing membership, originally comprised of traditional businessmen, and features entire rooms dedicated to cribbage, billiards and other games of leisure. Guests discovered the club’s unique antiques, and tried their hand at the early 20th-century candlepin bowling alley in the basement. Learn more about this site.

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