Portland's Historic Public Schools

The City of Portland has been a educational leader in Maine for over a century. Beginning with the State's first public high school, Portland has led the state with innovative programs for adult learners, manual training, and school design. Although some children still attend classes in a historic school, many neighborhood schools have been consolidated in newer buildings. Some of the former school buildings have found a new use, while sadly other buildings were demolished. Landmarks has collected the following information on historic Portland school buildings with help from a list recently compiled by the School Department and resources in our collection. 

Portland High School,  Portland Past and Present

Portland High School, Portland Past and Present

Portland High School, Cumberland Avenue

The earliest portion of Portland High School was built 1862-1863. It was significantly expanded by architects Miller and Mayo 1917-1919 to accommodate Portland's increasing student population, as enrollment at Portland High School doubled between 1890-1920. The oldest section of the school pictured at the left became the middle wing of the new E-shaped school that extended between Elm and Chestnut Street on Cumberland Avenue. In 1920, the middle wing was significantly damaged by fire and then rebuilt to meet the standards the adjacent 1919 school addition. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Deering High_Todd Caverly.jpg

Deering High School, Stevens Avenue

Deering High School was built 1922-1923 on the site of the former Presumpscot Park horse racing track. It was designed in the English Renaissance style, also sometimes know as Tudor Revival, by Portland architect John P. Thomas, in collaboration with the Boston architectural firm Thomas M. James Company. The school's construction was necessitated by overcrowding and a fire at the former high school building, now Lincoln Middle School.  A wing was added to the current Deering High School in 1932 and another addition was added in 1981 by Wadsworth, Boston, Dimick, Mercer, and Weatherill of Portland. Deering High School was determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. 


Lincoln Middle School, Stevens Avenue

Lincoln Middle School is the oldest of three public school buildings located on Stevens Avenue. Designed by Frederick A. Thompson of Portland for use as the City of Deering's High School, construction began in 1897. It was dedicated in 1899 the same year that Deering was annexed by the City of Portland. An increase in student population resulted in a addition in 1913. A few years later in 1921 a destructive fire coupled with ever increasing student enrollment resulted in a decision to build a new high school and reconstruct the historic school for use as a junior high school. The original hip roof was replaced by a flat roof and the school reopened in 1924 as Deering Junior High. The following year it was renamed Lincoln Junior High. The gymnasium was built in 1962 and named to commemorate teacher Joseph J. Wagnis. Threatened with closure in 1981, community support led to its renovation in the mid 1990s. During the renovations, classes were held in the Portland Armory at 772 Stevens Avenue. The school was determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.


Longfellow Elementary School, Stevens Avenue

The school was designed by the Portland firm of Miller and Beal to complement the style of nearby Deering High School in 1951 unlike other schools of the era that were designed in the less ornamental Modern Style. The new school replaced a c1870 wood framed school building that had served as a high school for Deering and as an elementary school. Longfellow Elementary School was determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.


School,  Cliff Island Historical Society

School, Cliff Island Historical Society

Cliff Island School, Church Street

Cliff Island School is one of Portland's oldest schools. The one-room wood framed school has been in use since 1895 and currently serves island children from grades K-5. 

Peaks Island School, Church Avenue

The first school house on Peaks Island was built in 1832 and a second school house was built in 1850. The current Peaks Island Elementary School was first built in 1869. A second story was added in the early 20th century and additions were added in 1950 and 1953. The school serves grades K-5.

Reed School,  Portland Press Herald

Reed School, Portland Press Herald

Thomas B. Reed School, Homestead Avenue

The Reed School was built to serve elementary school children in the Riverton neighborhood in 1926. It was named for Thomas Brackett Reed (1839-1902), a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served as the Speaker of the House, a former Maine Attorney General, and a former state legislator, serving in both the House and Senate. A one story addition was added to the school in 1960. When the school was closed after the construction of the nearby Riverton Elementary school, the building was used by the school department for storage and as the central kitchen for the entire school system. In 2013 the school building was closed and the City of Portland has undertaken planning for its reuse. Both portions of the school were found eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission as examples of two distinct types of school style built before and after World War II, and the way the school speaks to the neighborhood's rapid post-War development

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Nathan Clifford School, Durham Street

Nathan Clifford Elementary School is a three-story brick building in the Oakdale neighborhood. Designed by John Calvin Stevens and constructed 1907-1909, the school was named for U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Maine resident Nathan Clifford. With 16 classrooms, a gymnasium, and 500-seat auditorium, it was considered a model for schools in the area. The school was also significant for enacting a program for visually impaired students in 1932. The school closed in 2011. The school was recently converted into 22 market-rate residential units. The rehabilitation of the Nathan Clifford School was awarded a Landmarks' special preservation award in 2016.

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Roosevelt School, Stevens Avenue

The Roosevelt School on Stevens Avenue at the corner of Brighton Avenue was built in 1919. In 1986 the school building was converted to condominiums and several new condos were built at the rear of the property. The property is now known as Roosevelt Arms.

Emerson School,  Portland Past and Present

Emerson School, Portland Past and Present

Emerson School, Emerson Street

Emerson School at 13 Emerson Street on Munjoy Hill opened in 1898. It was named for Portland's first mayor, Andrew L. Emerson and designed by Frederick A. Tompson. The school was closed in the late 1970s and converted to use as housing in the 1980s. 

McLellan School,  Portland Past and Present

McLellan School, Portland Past and Present

McLellan School, Carroll Street

Located at the corner of Carroll and Neal Streets, the former McLellan School is now used for housing. The school was built in 1886, designed by Frederick A. Tompson, and named for Captain Jacob McLellan, a mayor of Portland from 1863-1865. In 1982 it was converted into twelve condominiums.

Shailer School,  Portland Past and Present

Shailer School, Portland Past and Present

Shailer School, North Street

This late 19th century brick school sits at 58-60 North Street on Munjoy Hill in Portland. Named after long time school board member, Rev. William H. Shailer of the First Baptist Church, the Shailer School was dedicated and completed in 1882.  Marada Adams (1845-1938) was the principal of the Shailer School and later served as the first principal of the Emerson Grammar School in 1898, where she taught until she retired in 1935. The school is now used for affordable housing through Avesta.

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Cummings School, Ocean Avenue

Unlike many former neighborhood schools in Portland, the former Cummings School at 587 Ocean Avenue continues to have an educational use as Spurwink's Glickman Academy building. The northern portion of the brick school was built in 1899 for the Deering's Lunt's Corner neighborhood. The school was substantially expanded in 1909 with a two-story Colonial Revival addition.

Staples School,  Portland Past and Present

Staples School, Portland Past and Present

Staples School, Center Street

Built c1855 the Staples School at 70 Center Street near the corner of Spring Street was initially a school for boys only. It later served all children from the Gorham's Corner neighborhood, an area home to a large number of Portland's immigrant families from Ireland. It remained a school until it was closed in 1971. The city sold the building in 1980 and it was rehabilitated into offices.

Oakdale School,  Image by   Todd Caverly

Oakdale School, Image by Todd Caverly

Oakdale School, Pitt Street

The Oakdale School was built to house classrooms for children in the Oakdale and Fessenden Park subdivisions that developed off Forest Avenue in the 1880s. Built in 1884, it was made obsolete with the opening of the Nathan Clifford School on Falmouth Street in 1909. The Oakdale School was used for kindergarten classes for several years. In the 1970s it was used by Greater Portland Christian School.  It is now used for a residential purpose. 

Rosa True School,  Developers Collaborative

Rosa True School, Developers Collaborative

Rosa E. True School, Park Street

Rosa True School is located at 140 Park Street in the Spring Street Historic District. The building was originally a school from 1844 to 1972. Known as the Park Street School, it was re-named in the 20th century for its long time principal Rosa E. True. It was converted into a multi-unit apartment building in 1987 by Greater Portland Landmarks. Developers Collaborative recently renovated the eight unit apartment building and added two additional units using a combination of Historic Tax Credits, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and HOME funds.


Walker Manual Training School, Casco Street

The school was built 1899-1901 on a site at 45 Casco Street to train Portland students in manual arts. Designed by Frederic A. Tompson it contained classrooms for woodworking, metal working, and cooking. The school was funded by the estate of the Hon. Joseph Walker and named in his memory. It was sold by the city in 1984 and converted into office space. It is a contributing building in the Congress Street Historic District.

   Portland Past and Present

 Portland Past and Present

Butler School, West and Pine Streets

The Butler School was built in 1879 to serve the Bramhall neighborhood. It was replaced by the 1972 construction of the Reiche School in Portland's West End. Butler School was designed by Francis Fassett following model school designs of the era. Butler School was rehabilitated into apartments in the mid 1970s. The school is located in the West End Historic District.

   Portland Past and Present

 Portland Past and Present

Casco Street School

The Casco Street School housed primary school classrooms for the West Bayside neighborhood. Located just uphill from the Walker Manual Training School, the site of the former Casco Street School is now a parking lot.

   Portland Past and Present

 Portland Past and Present

Woolson School, Chestnut Street 

Located on the site of an expansion of Portland High School in the late 1980s, the Woolson School was built in 1852 as Portland's first high school for girls and led by principal Moses Woolson. In 1863 when the Portland High School was built next door, girls could attend the new high school by entering from Cumberland Avenue (boys entered from Congress Street). The Woolson School became a normal school, a teacher training school. It was later used as an elementary school and known as the Moses Woolson School. It burned in 1974. 

   Portland Past and Present

 Portland Past and Present

Jackson School, 40 Forest Avenue

The Jackson School was located on the southern side of Forest Avenue behind the Congress Square Hotel at Congress and Forest Avenue. The land was sold by the City of Portland to Maine Hotel, owners of the Eastland Hotel in 1972 and is now a parking lot.  The school site was originally acquired by the city in 1855. 

   Portland Past and Present

 Portland Past and Present

Monument Street School, Monument Street

The former school building was located between St. Lawrence and Atlantic Streets, on the Congress Street side of Monument Street. The school housed primary school classes and a kindergarten.


Heseltine School

The former school was located at the corner of Irving Street and Ocean Avenue, now the location of Heseltine Park. Originally built as the District No. 3 School by the City of Westbrook in 1867, it was expanded around 1900 by the City of Portland after Deering was annexed by the city. During the expansion and overcrowding some classes were taught nearby in the Odd Fellows Hall at Woodfords Corner. It was renamed in honor of  D. W. Heseltine, a local druggist, resident of Ocean Avenue, and school board member.

   Portland Past and Present

 Portland Past and Present

Vaughan Street School, Vaughan Street

This late 19th century primary school was built at 233 Vaughan Street. Now used for commercial purposes the former school building has been altered by the closure of its two side entrances.

   Portland Past and Present

 Portland Past and Present

West School, Lowell Street

This former grammar and primary school was located at 37-39 Lowell Street in the Libby Town neighborhood. A second West School was built in 1962 on Douglas Street and recently demolished in 2015.

North School,  Portland Past and Present

North School, Portland Past and Present

North School

The North School was built in 1867 on the site of the Congress Street Grammar School built in the 1820s and destroyed in the Great Fire of 1866.  Many of the teachers at the North School were Irish women from the neighborhood, although the city’s first black public school teacher also taught at the North School. The school’s programs reflected the neighborhood it served, offering manual training programs located in the school’s attic space and a school banking program. Both programs were developed to help educate the large numbers of immigrant and first generation students in the India Street Historic District. In the 1920s the North Street School’s teachers taught students representing twenty nationalities. The North School closed in the mid-1970s and was converted into a residential building in the mid-1980s. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and included in the India Street Historic District in 2015.


Chapman School, Brighton Avenue

The Chapman School and adjacent fields were named for Albion Parris Chapman. Chapman had a drugstore in Woodford's Corner and lived in a dwelling at 226 Capisic Street.  In 1982 the Breakwater School moved into the former public school at the corner of Brighton and Capisic and has expanded the historic school with new additions.


Additional former Portland Public School Buildings

William B. Jack Junior High School, North Street. Built 1943 and closed 2001. Demolished.

Marada Adams School, Vesper Street. Built 1958 and closed 2006. Demolished.

Peary School, Florida Avenue. Built 1930 and closed 1976. Demolished.

Morrill's Corner School, Forest Avenue. A brick school built 1903. Demolished.

Sherman Street Kindergarten. Built 1941. Demolished.

Saunders Street School, Nevens Street. Demolished.

Leland School, Stevens Avenue. Wood Frame school. Demolished.

Summit School, Summit Street. A wood frame school. Demolished.

Allens School, Washington Avenue. Demolished.

Riverside School, Washington Avenue. A wood frame school. Demolished.

Riverton School, Forest Avenue. 

Presumpscot School, Presumpscot Street. Demolished.

Wadsworth Street School. Demolished.

Capisic School, Capisic Street. A former one-room school. Demolished.

Libby School, Congress Street. Demolished.

Willard School, Stroudwater. A wood frame school. Demolished.

Winslow School, Winslow Street. A wood frame school. Demolished.