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South Portland is a city in Cumberland Countymarker, Mainemarker, United Statesmarker, and is the fourth-largest city in the state. Founded in 1895, as of the 2000 census, the city population was 23,324. Known for its working waterfront, South Portland is situated on Portland Harbor and overlooks the skyline of Portlandmarker and the islands of Casco Bay. Due to South Portland's close proximity to air, marine and highway transportation options, the city has become a center for retail and industry in the region.

South Portland is a principal city of the Portlandmarker–South Portland–Biddefordmarker, Maine Metropolitan Statistical Area.


Liberty ships being built along the waterfront (August 1942)
South Portland was first settled in 1630, and it grew to become a small residential community with many farms. On March 15, 1895, it was incorporated as a town after it broke away from Cape Elizabethmarker, based on a disagreement on a future source of public drinking water. Three years later South Portland became a city, destined to receive its drinking water, like Portland, from Sebago Lakemarker, while Cape Elizabeth used wells or other local sources.

In 1940, the Todd-Bath Iron Shipbuilding Corp (later called the “East Yard”) was established to build cargo ships for Britain. When the United States became involved with World War II, the shipyard expanded to include the South Portland Shipbuilding Corp. (aka the “West Yard”), that later combined with the Todd-Bath yard to become the New England Shipbuilding Corporation. These shipyards built 236 of the 440 foot (134 m) long Liberty ships, more than 10 percent of all the Liberty ships constructed during the war years. At its peak, the shipyard employed some 30,000 people, including thousands of women, who took over the jobs vacated by men going into the service. The shipyard gradually ceased operations after the war ended in 1945. Remnants of the shipyards are visible, and there is a memorial to the shipyard and the workers at Bug Light Park. The park is also home to Portland Breakwater Lighthousemarker, commonly referred to as "Bug Light".

On South Portland's waterfront is Fort Preblemarker, which is a military fort established in 1808 to protect Portland Harbor. It was in operation during several American conflicts, including the United States Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Nearby Fort Preble is Spring Point Ledge Lightmarker, which was constructed by the federal government in 1897 to mark a dangerous rock ledge.

Over the last few decades, South Portland has become the retail capital of Maine. The Mill Creek shopping center, built in the 1950s, was the first such "strip mall" built in Maine: a line of stores under one long roof and a covered walkway. Mill Creek has changed and grown significantly since, but the original layout still forms the core of the stores. The area in Mill Creek known as the Waterfront Market sits at the base of the Casco Bay Bridge and attracts shoppers from Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and Portland.

The need for a large mall in Maine emerged in the 1960s, as Portland's downtown district could not accommodate the growing retail market. A former pig farm in South Portland was chosen as the site for the project because it was close to I-95 and convenient from Portland. Beginning construction of the Maine Mallmarker in the late 1960s marked the start of a major transition in the western part of South Portland: from a rural, agrarian landscape to the large retail center that exists today.

The oldest neighborhood in South Portland, and its former "retail corridor," is Ferry Village. Prior to the Casco Bay Bridge (or the one it replaced, the Million Dollar Bridge), ferries transported people and goods back and forth across the harbor to Portland. The landscape and the makeup of residents in Ferry Village were forever changed upon the close of the WWII shipyards. The Village has slowly bounced back and is now one of the more popular places in the city to live.

Ferry Village also has one of the most active and involved neighborhood associations in Southern Maine. The Ferry Village Neighboorhood Conservation Association (FVNCA) was formed in August 1985 to address the development boom in the 1980s which was quickly altering the character of the waterfront and many Greater Portland neighborhoods. FVNCA was instrumental in the formation of the South Portland Land Trust as well as the City-managed Land Bank which provides seed money for the acquisition of available open space.

Government and politics

South Portland utilizes a council-manager form of government.

The city council is made up of seven members elected by the citizens: one member from each of the five districts in the city, and two at-large members. Voters are allowed to vote for council candidates in all five districts, not just the district where they are registered to vote.

The members of the council elect one of themselves as mayor, which is primarily a ceremonial title. The mayor serves as chairman of the council.

The city council is responsible for establishing policy, passing local ordinances, voting appropriations, and developing an overall vision for the city.

The council appoints a city manager to oversee the daily operations of the government and implement the policies established by the council. The manager is an employee of the city and has a contract that specifies his or her duties and responsibilities. Ideally, the manager is considered apolitical.

Mayoral controversy

In December 2007, then-mayor James Soule made headlines around Maine and around the country when he proposed in his inaugural address that South Portland, along with the rest of coastal southern Maine, should secede from the state of Maine and form a new state. Soule referred to the state of Maine as an "oppressive regime" and said that South Portland, along with other coastal southern Maine cities and towns, contributes much more to the state than it receives in return.

Soule's proposal was panned by the congressional delegation and by the governor, who called it "silly" and "counterproductive."

The proposal did not gain any traction, and Soule has not pursued it since then. Soule nominated himself for reelection as mayor in November 2008, but was defeated by Thomas Blake in a 6-1 vote. Soule voted for himself.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.3 square miles (37.0 km²), of which, 12.0 square miles (31.1 km²) of it is land and 2.3 square miles (6.0 km²) of it (16.15%) is water.
Spring Point Ledge Light under construction (1951)
South Portland borders Cape Elizabeth, Portland, Scarborough, and Westbrook. The City is located at .

Villages and neighborhoods

Villages are in bold; neighborhoods are in italics.

  • Knightville
    • Mill Creek

  • Ligonia

  • Pleasantdale
    • Highland Avenue / Stanwood Park

  • Skunk Hill
    • Brick Hill
    • Cash Corner
    • Country Gardens
    • Maine Mall
    • Meadowbrook
    • Redbank
    • Sunset Park
    • Thornton Heights

  • Town House Corner
    • South Portland Heights


"Bug Light" with Portland's Eastern Promenade in the background.
As of the census of 2000, there were 23,324 people, 10,047 households, and 6,038 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,944.7 people per square mile (751.1/km²). There were 10,349 housing units at an average density of 862.9/sq mi (333.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.80% White, 0.63% African American, 0.33% Native American, 1.59% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.31% from other races, and 1.31% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.13% of the population.

There were 10,047 households out of which 27.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.1% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.9% were non-families. 30.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.85.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.3% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 32.2% from 25 to 44, 23.1% from 45 to 64, and 14.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 89.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $42,770, and the median income for a family was $52,833. Males had a median income of $32,256 versus $28,630 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,781. About 4.9% of families and 6.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.5% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.


An oil tanker delivering oil to the Portland Pipeline.
While the city is considered suburban, it also has a diverse economy, which is displayed by its working waterfront and large retail center.

Home to the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, millions of barrels of oil are shipped to South Portland each year, which is a major portion of the inbound tonnage entering the Port of Portland.

Rigby Yard, the largest railroad yard in New England, built by Portland Terminal Company in 1922, is still in operation to this day and is part of the Pan Am Railways system.

The city is also home to a manufacturing facility and world headquarters for the technology company Fairchild Semiconductor.

The Maine Mall is the largest and busiest mall in the state and attracts thousands of shoppers each year.

The main runway of Maine's largest airport, the Portland International Jetportmarker, is located within the city of South Portland. The passenger terminal is located within the city of Portland.

Points of interest

South Portland offers an array of parks and open space. One of the main features of South Portland is the historic Greenbelt walkway, which is a three mile paved trail that crosses through several neighborhoods and provides views of the harbor. Mill Creek Park is located in South Portland's downtown area and is complete with a beautifully landscaped pond area, bridge and rose garden. The park is host to several local events including summer concerts, Art in the Park, holiday tree lighting and ice skating in the winter. Other notable parks are Wainwright Farm, which is a new recreational facility and Hinckley Park which is a 40-acre wooded area that has two ponds. The city's waterfront has several recreational marinas and is home to the last free beach in the area, Willard Beach.

Other attractions:
A South Portland marina overlooking the city of Portland.

Notable residents


South Portland's public school system has five neighborhood elementary schools: Brown School, Dyer School, Kaler School, Skillin School and Small School. The city has two middle schools, Mahoney Middle School and Memorial Middle School. The city has only one high school, South Portland High Schoolmarker, which has an enrollment of about 1000 students.

The city of South Portland also has two private schools: Holy Cross School which is a catholic K-8 school and Greater Portland Christian School which is K-12.

South Portland also boasts institutions of higher learning such as Andover College, Husson Universitymarker-South Portland Campus, New England Bible College, and Southern Maine Community Collegemarker.


There are several local media groups that report on the news of the city. The South Portland Sentry offers a free newspaper that covers the city's events and news. It has a circulation of 17,000 and is distributed to residents free of charge. Regional newspapers such as The Current and The Forecaster cover South Portland issues and events, while also serving the communities of Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough. The city also has a local access television station, SPC-TV which is sponsored by the city and is broadcast on Time Warner Cable's channel 2.

Media coverage for South Portland is also provided by Portland's television and radio stations and periodicals.


  1. {{cite web | title=South Portland - City Council | url={0A44608D-885E-4B6C-9D32-D9DA33DC2D90} | work=City of South Portland | accessdate=2009-04-13}}
  2. {{cite web | title=South Portland - Executive | url={FF753AA8-A088-4448-9E29-485925ADF3A7} | work=City of South Portland | accessdate=2009-04-13}}
  1. {{cite web | title=South Portland - City Council | url={0A44608D-885E-4B6C-9D32-D9DA33DC2D90} | work=City of South Portland | accessdate=2009-04-13}}
  2. {{cite web | title=South Portland - Executive | url={FF753AA8-A088-4448-9E29-485925ADF3A7} | work=City of South Portland | accessdate=2009-04-13}}

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