The Portland Company Complex

58 Fore Street, Portland   |   Nominated to Places in Peril in 2012

The Issue 

The Portland Company Complex is the only intact 19th century industrial complex on the Portland waterfront. It was founded during the height of railroad construction and expansion and was purpose-built to supply locomotives for the railroads. From 1845 – 1978, the Portland Company produced 630 steam railroad locomotives, boilers and engines for over 350 marine vessels, machinery for the paper industry, gunboats for the Civil War, and equipment to build the Panama Canal. In addition, the Company produced a variety of metal objects needed for the rapidly-expanding metropolitan industrial age, such as decorative cast iron building storefronts, streetlights, gates, grates, and manhole covers.

In 1974, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission determined the complex to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places for its industrial significance, but it was never actually nominated to the National Register, nor designated City landmark.  In 2012, Greater Portland Landmarks named the Portland Company to its endangered properties list.   In 2013, the Portland Company was purchased by a developer, CPB2, with plans to rehabilitate some of the historic buildings as part of a larger redevelopment of the waterfront site. Initial redevelopment plans anticipated the demolition of twelve of sixteen late nineteenth and early 20th century buildings that comprised the industrial complex. Landmarks supported nomination of the Portland Company to the National Register, as well as its designation as a local historic district. In February 2016, the Portland City Council approved a Portland Company Local Historic District that protects seven of the complex's sixteen remaining buildings.

In the fall of 2016 the development team formally submitted a master development plan to the City for review. Landmarks has attended and participated in all of the public meetings.

Our Position

The Portland Company Local Historic District recognizes a nationally-significant industrial complex that conveys an important part of Portland's history. As one of our region's most endangered properties, Greater Portland Landmarks is please CPB2 plans to rehabilitate the contributing buildings in the historic district and make the buildings and history of the Portland Company a centerpiece of the contemporary reuse of this site.

Greater Portland Landmarks advocates for the following:

  • Upholding the findings of the Historic Preservation Board.
  • Creating new construction in and directly adjacent to the historic district that does not overwhelm, distract or visually compete with the historic buildings.
  • Preserving the character of the industrial complex through scale, massing, materials, and design details while allowing for new construction. 
  • Including at least one overhead bridge element that is retained or rebuilt in each alley to preserve the industrial complex’s visual character.
  • Designing additions to the historic buildings that are contextually appropriate to each building. 

Landmarks also supports the potential relocation of Building 12 and the related amendment of the district boundaries as contemplated in the Master Development Plan.  The relocation will preserve the building’s visual relationship with the other contributing buildings in the historic district, provide it much greater visibility than would be possible in its current location, and create a contiguous historic district boundary.  

Read more about Landmarks specific comments submitted to the Planning Board

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