Portland is the largest city in Maine and is the county seat of Cumberland County. The 2010 city population was 66,194, growing 3 percent since the census of 2000. With a metro population of over 500,000, the Greater Portland area is home to more than one-third of Maine's total population.
Tourists visit Portland's historic Old Port district along Portland Harbor, at the mouth of the Fore River and part of Casco Bay, and the Arts District, which runs along Congress Street in the center of the city. Portland Head Light is located in nearby Cape Elizabeth and marks the entrance to Portland Harbor.
The city seal depicts a phoenix rising from ashes, which aligns with the city's motto, Resurgam, Latin for "I will rise again." The motto refers to Portland's recoveries from four devastating fires. The city of Portland, Oregon, was named for Portland, Maine.
Portland Public Schools is the largest school system in Maine, serving approximately 7,000 students.
Native Americans originally called the Portland peninsula Machigonne. The first European settler was Capt. Christopher Levett, an English naval captain granted by King Charles I of England in 1623 to found a settlement in Casco Bay. A member of the Council for New England and agent for Ferdinando Gorges, Levett built a stone house where he left a company of ten men, then returned to England and wrote a book about his voyage to drum up support for the settlement. The settlement failed, and the fate of Levett's colonists is unknown. The explorer sailed from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony to meet John Winthrop in 1630, but never returned to Maine. Fort Levett in the harbor is named for him.
The peninsula was first permanently settled in 1633 as a fishing and trading village named Casco. When the Massachusetts Bay Colony took over Casco Bay in 1658, the town's name changed again to Falmouth. In 1676, the village was destroyed by the Wampanoag during King Philip's War. It was rebuilt. During King William's War, a raiding party of French and Native allies attacked and largely destroyed it again in Battle of Fort Loyal (1690). On October 18, 1775, Falmouth was burned in the Revolution by the Royal Navy under command of Captain Henry Mowat.
In 1820, Maine became a state with Portland as its capital. In 1832, the capital was moved to Augusta. In 1851, Maine led the nation by passing the first state law prohibiting the sale of alcohol except for "medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes." The law subsequently became known as the Maine law, as 18 states quickly followed. On June 2, 1855, the Portland Rum Riot occurred.
On June 26, 1863, a Confederate raiding party led by Captain Charles Read, entered the harbor at Portland and the Battle of Portland Harbor ensued, one of the northernmost battles of the Civil War. The 1866 Great Fire of Portland, Maine of July 4, 1866, ignited during the Independence Day celebration, destroyed most of the commercial buildings in the city, half the churches and hundreds of homes. More than 10,000 people were left homeless.
In 1853, upon completion of the Grand Trunk Railway to Montreal, Portland became the primary ice-free winter seaport for Canadian exports. The Portland Company manufactured more than 600 19th-century steam locomotives. Portland became a 20th-century rail hub as five additional rail lines merged into Portland Terminal Company in 1911. Following nationalization of the Grand Trunk system in 1923, Canadian export traffic was diverted from Portland to Halifax, Nova Scotia, causing marked local economic decline. In the 20th century, icebreakers later enabled ships to reach Montreal in winter, drastically reducing Portland's role as a winter port for Canada.
The erection of the Maine Mall, an indoor shopping center established in the suburb of South Portland during the 1970s, economically depressed downtown Portland. The trend reversed when tourists and new businesses started revitalizing the old seaport, locally known as the Old Port. Since the 1990s the historically industrial Bayside neighborhood saw rapid development. The emerging harborside Ocean Gateway neighborhood at the base of Munjoy Hill. The Maine College of Art has been a revitalizing force downtown, attracting students from around the country. The historic Porteous building on Congress Street was restored by the College.