Preparing Historic Resources for Climate Change

Summer 2019 Survey Study Areas

Summer 2019 Survey Study Areas

The Issue

Rising seas and coastal flooding present a threat to cultural resources in historic coastal communities. Planning for the future, preservationists need to make tough decisions about what will be lost, what can be saved, and how historic preservation can contribute to making our places more sustainable.

Greater Portland is at considerable risk according to sea level rise projections. Though difficult to quantify exact damage, the probability is high that rising seas and storm surges to coastal areas will do irrevocable damage to coastal homes and businesses as has already been seen in other states and in places like Camp Ellis in Saco. Communities such as Higgins Beach, Pine Point, Prouts Neck, and Portland’s Bayside and Stroudwater neighborhoods as well as the Portland waterfront will be severely impacted by seal level rise and storm surges. Bayside and the waterfront have already seen the damage that can result from a king tide flood and there is evidence pointing to more of these storm surges in the near future. The cottages of Higgins Beach and the 1897 Oceanside Hotel are in the area’s projected flood zone. Elsewhere in Scarborough, Prouts Neck is anticipated to become an island community, as Black Point Road would become underwater and homes like that of Winslow Homer could be threatened by storm surges. Areas along the Spurwink, Nonesuch, Libby, Scarborough, and Fore Rivers would see substantial loss of property due to the expansion of the rivers.

Our Position

We know that our historic buildings, archaeological resources, and communities are at risk, but many disagree on where to go from there. While we consider how to preserve our built and cultural landscapes, we must weigh our desire for authenticity against our need for survival in the face of climate change impacts. How should preservation evolve in light of our changing climate and landscape? Greater Portland Landmarks will work to document resources at risk, educate potentially impacted communities and property owners on best practices in hazard mitigation for historic resources, and assist with local efforts to increase the region’s resiliency to climate change.   

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