Portland, Connecticut

Yes, you heard me correctly, Portland, Connecticut. Not to be confused with Portland, Oregon, Portland, Maine, Portland, Indiana, Portland, England, or even Portland, Australia, along with 20 other places your mind jumps to when you hear the name "Portland".

Portland, Connecticut, home of 8500, with 1 Dairy Queen that closes at 10 on weekends, 2 Dunkin Donuts, 1 Burger King, 1 Subway, and 4 gas stations.

There are a few lucky souls in the billions of our world that are aware of Portland's existence. A list of these people include the following:

1. The 8,000 inhabitants of this New England town.
2. The majority of the inhabitants of the surrounding towns. (Middletown, Cromwell, East Hampton, Glastonbury, etc.)
3. Those who drive across the Arrigoni Bridge on Route 66 every day on their way to or from work. (Whether they will admit it or not, they have been to Portland.)
4. The relatives of those residing in Portland, Connecticut. (This is a small number because most Portland families also live in Portland -- the number of people who move in and out of this town is relatively few.)
5. Me, myself, and I.
6. The graffiti artist from East Hartford whose studio consists of the town's two water towers, located next to the High School.
7. There must be at least another hundred people who are aware that Portland, Connecticut exists, so this bullet belongs to them. If you believe me, you can also belong in this category.

But now the question: Why would you want to be aware of the existence of such a town?

Yes, Portland fits the stereotypical "Small town USA" descriptor. And many of its citizens are probably waiting for Saki's The Unrest-Cure. It has a tiny-town mentality, and citizens think nothing ever happens there, (which is probably true). Most teenagers make sure they know and become friends with all the town's police officers -- which can be a useful skill -- and if anyone in the town is arrested for as much as torturing the neighbor's cat, "everyone" will know by the next morning.

"Located in Central Connecticut, alongside the beautiful Connecticut River, Portland was once famous for its massive, brownstone quarries, shipbuilding industry and quality tobacco farming. Mindful of its unique heritage, today's Portland retains its proud New England character as it embraces the challenges of the 21st century." (Portland Online)

Located in Middlesex County, and bordered on the south and the west by the Connecticut River, Portland was settled in what is estimated to be 1690, as a part of the larger Middletown. In the mid-1700s Portland became its own town.

Of the history of Portland, interest has recently been revived in its Brownstone Quarries. This brown stone, formed in the Triassic Epoch, is a somber brown color, soft enough for carving and polishing, and is found only in Portland. Portland's location on the Connecticut River, brownstone's easy ability to be quarried, and its appeal to European settlers made it valuable. It was originally owned by the town of Middletown and was deeded to Wesleyan University from 1833 to 1884. The Middlesex Quarrying Company privately leased the quarries in 1886, employing over 1,500 workers, immigrants from Sweden, Ireland, and Italy. The quarries employed their own fleet of 25 ships and delivered stones to places such as Boston, New York, London, and San Francisco.

Brownstone became popular, and entire neighborhoods in Boston and New York made of this stone are still known as "brownstones". Many local buildings in Portland and Middletown were built of brownstone. Later, "the prevalence of brownstone lent an architectural somberness that seemed appropriate to post-Civil War America. So many Americans were either killed or maimed in that war, that the grief-stricken, antebellum period came to be known as the "Brown Decades." (The Brownstone Quarries)

In 1936, the Connecticut River experienced the largest flood in years, destroying the bridge between Middletown and Portland and flooding the quarries. The water was unable to be pumped, and for over 50 years the brownstone quarries became forgotten. A movement was recently made to consider Portland's history to promote citizen awareness, create ecomonic stimulus, and encourage businesses to come to Portland. The National Park Service officially designated the Portland Quarries as a National Historic Resource. A PBS series, Positively Connecticut, featured the Portland Quarries.

So yes, Portland with its 23.7 square miles is a small town where the teenage hang-out spots are the Public Library and sometimes even the Senior Center. Major events are the Annual Memorial Day Parade and the 4th of July fireworks show. Everyone knows just about everyone. Though not the place to be for entertainment, unless you include almost hitting a wild turkey that flies in front of your car, this New England town, an hour away from both New York City and Boston, offers a unique history and character.


Portland Online. www.portlandct.org
The Brownstone Quarries. http://www.portlandct.org/History/Hist.quarries.htm
Portland History. http://www.portlandct.org/History/history.htm
Portland CT USGenWeb Project. www.angelfire.com/ct/portland

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