South Portland is a city in Cumberland County, Maine, United States, and is the fourth-largest city in the state. Founded in 1895, as of the 2000 census, the city population was 23,324. Known for its working waterfront, South Portland is situated on Portland Harbor and overlooks the skyline of Portland and the islands of Casco Bay. Due to South Portland's close proximity to air, marine and highway transportation options, the city has become a center for retail and industry in the region.
South Portland was first settled in 1630, and it grew to become a small residential community with many farms. On March 15, 1895, it was incorporated as a town after it broke away from Cape Elizabeth, based on a disagreement on a future source of public drinking water. Three years later South Portland became a city, destined to receive its drinking water, like Portland, from Sebago Lake, while Cape Elizabeth used wells or other local sources.
In 1940, the Todd-Bath Iron Shipbuilding Corp (later called the “East Yard”) was established to build cargo ships for Britain. When the United States became involved with World War II, the shipyard expanded to include the South Portland Shipbuilding Corp. (aka the “West Yard”), that later combined with the Todd-Bath yard to become the New England Shipbuilding Corporation. These shipyards built 236 of the 440 foot (134 m) long Liberty ships, more than 10 percent of all the Liberty ships constructed during the war years. At its peak, the shipyard employed some 30,000 people, including thousands of women, who took over the jobs vacated by men going into the service. The shipyard gradually ceased operations after the war ended in 1945. Remnants of the shipyards are visible, and there is a memorial to the shipyard and the workers at Bug Light Park. The park is also home to Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, commonly referred to as "Bug Light".
On South Portland's waterfront is Fort Preble, which is a military fort established in 1808 to protect Portland Harbor. It was in operation during several American conflicts, including the United States Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Nearby Fort Preble is Spring Point Ledge Light, which was constructed by the federal government in 1987 to mark a dangerous rock ledge.
Over the last few decades, South Portland has become the retail capital of Maine. The Mill Creek shopping center, built in the 1950s, was the first such "strip mall" built in Maine: a line of stores under one long roof and a covered walkway. Mill Creek has changed and grown significantly since, but the original layout still forms the core of the stores. The area in Mill Creek known as the Waterfront Market sits at the base of the Casco Bay Bridge and attracts shoppers from Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and Portland.
The need for a large mall in Maine emerged in the 1960s, as Portland's downtown district could not accommodate the growing retail market. A former pig farm in South Portland was chosen as the site for the project because it was close to I-95 and convenient from Portland. Beginning construction of the Maine Mall in the late 1960s marked the start of a major transition in the western part of South Portland: from a rural, agrarian landscape to the large retail center that exists today.
The oldest neighborhood in South Portland, and its former "retail corridor," is Ferry Village. Prior to the Casco Bay Bridge (or the one it replaced, the Million Dollar Bridge), ferries transported people and goods back and forth across the harbor to Portland. The landscape and the makeup of residents in Ferry Village were forever changed upon the close of the WWII shipyards. The Village has slowly bounced back and is now one of the more popular places in the city to live.
Ferry Village also has one of the most active and involved neighborhood associations in Southern Maine. The Ferry Village Neighboorhood Conservation Association (FVNCA) was formed in August 1985 to address the development boom in the 1980s which was quickly altering the character of the waterfront and many Greater Portland neighborhoods. FVNCA was instrumental in the formation of the South Portland Land Trust as well as the City-managed Land Bank which provides seed money for the acquisition of available open space.
South Portland borders Cape Elizabeth, Portland, Scarborough, and Westbrook. The City is located at .
Villages are in bold; neighborhoods are in italics.
As of the census of 2000, there were 23,324 people, 10,047 households, and 6,038 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,944.7 people per square mile (751.1/km²). There were 10,349 housing units at an average density of 862.9/sq mi (333.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.80% White, 0.63% African American, 0.33% Native American, 1.59% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.31% from other races, and 1.31% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.13% of the population.
There were 10,047 households out of which 27.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.1% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.9% were non-families. 30.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.85.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.3% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 32.2% from 25 to 44, 23.1% from 45 to 64, and 14.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 89.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $42,770, and the median income for a family was $52,833. Males had a median income of $32,256 versus $28,630 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,781. About 4.9% of families and 6.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.5% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.
While the city is considered suburban, it also has a diverse economy, which is displayed by its working waterfront and large retail center.
Home to the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, millions of barrels of oil are shipped to South Portland each year, which is a major portion of the inbound tonnage entering the Port of Portland.
The city is also regional headquarters for the technology company Fairchild Semiconductor.
Emerging as a retail center, the Maine Mall is the largest and busiest mall in the state and attracts thousands of shoppers each year.
The city of South Portland also has two private schools: Holy Cross School which is a catholic K-8 school and Greater Portland Christian School which is K-12.
There are several local media groups that report on the news of the city. The South Portland Sentry offers a free newspaper that covers the city's events and news. It has a circulation of 17,000 and is distributed to residents free of charge. Regional newspapers such as The Current and The Forecaster cover South Portland issues and events, while also serving the communities of Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough. The city also has a local access television station, SPC-TV which is sponsored by the city and is broadcast on Time Warner Cable's channel 2.
Media coverage for South Portland is also provided by Portland's television and radio stations and periodicals.