May 1, 2015

Museum Opens For the Season ~ Features Meeting House Hill

By Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo


How many of us have forgotten that Drillen Hardware had its beginning when Barney and Kathy Drillen purchased the former Flynn Hardware business at 433 Cottage Road (where the South Portland House of Pizza is now located). The Drillens started their hardware store in 1981 at that location and then built their current building in 1986. Shown here is the 460 Cottage Road building under construction in 1986.

 The South Portland Historical Society has just opened its Cushing’s Point Museum at Bug Light Park for the 2015 season.  Several exhibits have been added and/or updated over the winter months and we encourage residents to come down for a visit. The museum is open daily from 10am to 4pm. 

 Meeting House Hill is a pleasant residential neighborhood in South Portland. Starting at the popular Red’s Dairy Freeze, the neighborhood surrounds Cottage Road as it rises up the hill to the First Congregational Church and heads toward the Cape Elizabeth town line. Cottage Road has long been the major street through the neighborhood so it has an interesting history of groceries, pharmacies and other businesses which have served the local residents. The neighborhood was named for the church; the congregation on the hill dates back to 1733 when the Second Parish of Falmouth was formed and built its first meeting house on the hill in 1734. The first pastor of the parish, Rev. Benjamin Allen, is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, just across from the front of the church.

 The Society would like to thank the following businesses for sponsoring this year’s Meeting House Hill exhibit: Drillen Hardware, Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance, O’Hare Associates CTRS, and Town & Country Federal Credit Union.

 In its main exhibit room, the museum features an exhibit covering 100 years of shipbuilding in South Portland. From the heyday of wooden ship building in the mid-1800s to the hectic activity of the Liberty ship yards in the 1940s, South Portland has a long history of shipbuilding. The Society has an ongoing research project covering World War I shipbuilding and added a new section to the exhibit last year to include that research. This spring, the Society has also pulled additional materials from its archives to include in its shipyard exhibit case. The South Portland Shipyards exhibit is being sponsored again this year by Bath Savings Institution. 

 We extend our thanks to all of these businesses, as well as the many businesses that support the historical society with memberships and event sponsorships. The museum will again be open with free admission this year. Let us not take that for granted; free museum admission is one of the many benefits made possible by the support of businesses and individuals in the South Portland community who appreciate history and the need to preserve it. If you would like to help, please stop by the museum to pick up a membership brochure, visit us at where membership information is available, or give us a call at 767-7299 to become a member with a credit card. Thank you and we hope to see you at the museum this year!

May 8, 2015

Season Underway at South Portland Historical Society

By Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo

 South Portland Historical Society’s museum at Bug Light Park is now open for the season. The museum is open daily; feel free to stop by between 10am and 4pm to enjoy a variety of exhibits that cover both American and South Portland history. You are welcome to tour the museum on your own or follow one of the volunteer museum guides on an interesting and educational tour. There is no charge for admission.

 May is a busy month for the historical society. In addition to offering the museum daily, here are two events coming up the next week:


On Tuesday, May 12, from 5pm to 9pm, Otto Pizza will donate a percentage of all proceeds made at the 159 Cottage Road, South Portland location, to the South Portland Historical Society. This includes all sales that are made between 5pm and 9pm, including take out, delivery, or dine in. Hope to see you there!



The kite festival will take place on Saturday, May 16, from 11am to 4pm at Bug Light Park. This is a fun, free family festival which is hosted by the historical society ~ and we are anticipating record attendance this year; we want to see happy and smiling faces!  Here are some tips to help you enjoy this year’s festival:

 -          Plan to walk, if you are able – There is not enough parking within Bug Light Park to accommodate everyone. Please be considerate of our friends and neighbors who have handicap-accessibility needs and allow them to park in the spaces close to the activities. Please plan to either 1) walk/bike to the park, or 2) park at SMCC or Allagash International, both of whom have generously agreed to offer overflow parking, and walk from there to the park. If you arrive with the expectation of walking, you won’t have to deal with traffic or parking issues and can enjoy the day to its fullest. Enjoy the outdoors and walk down the Greenbelt with your neighbors!

 -          Please use restroom facilities before you arrive. We are very grateful to the City of South Portland for providing restroom facilities in the park this year, but with this many people, there will be lines.

 -          Plan to bring a little money. Yes, the festival is free, but be aware that there are expenses involved with holding a large festival. To make sure that the festival continues, please consider buying lunch at the barbecue and/or purchasing a kite at the museum ~ and don’t forget the Rotary Club which will be opening Bug Light for tours. They will have a donation bucket to help fund maintenance of the lighthouse.

 -          Consider becoming a member of the South Portland Historical Society (or renew your membership)! The historical society offers many programs, events and services to the public with little or no charge, but what we do is largely made possible by current and former residents of South Portland who appreciate what we do. Memberships start at $15 ($10 for seniors) and $25 for families. Drop by the museum to sign up or renew your membership, or give us a call at 767-7299 with your credit card. 

May 15, 2015

Program on May 20th:  “Technology Brings the Past to Life”

By Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo


This rare image of the Schlotterbeck & Foss drug store in Knightville, part of the Hobbs Collection at the historical society, is one of many items to be shown at the Society’s Annual Meeting next Wednesday, May 20, at 6:30pm at the Community Center. Admission is free for current Society members and non-members may attend with a $10 donation.


On Wednesday, May 20th, the South Portland Historical Society will hold its Annual Meeting at the South Portland Community Center on Nelson Road. I hope that the public will come on out in support of its historical society and learn about the tremendous preservation work going on there. At the event, attendees will enjoy viewing a variety of historic photographs and documents that have been donated to the historical society over the past year.

In 2011, the historical society received a grant through Maine State Archives which funded the purchase of the PastPerfect Museum Software program. This program has brought the Society into a new era since it was put in use in 2012. After many years of recording collection items in a list format using a spreadsheet, Society volunteers were thrilled to now have a customizable database in which to catalog its holdings. The software is so powerful that it can be used not just to catalog individual items, but historic sites and people, as well. Genealogical information, oral history and other details can then be linked to the photographs and other documents in the collection.

When we first started the cataloging project, the amount of work ahead was daunting. The Society has been collecting historic items for over 50 years, so the amount of material in the archives is sizeable. For the first few years of the project, we brought in college interns to work on the project, but by the time we trained each intern, it was nearly time for the internship to be over. Last year, we hired a part-time cataloger who made tremendous progress over the seven months that she was with us.

We have now been cataloging with this database for four years and are starting to reach a critical mass where most searches of South Portland history topics are now returning a large number of photographs and other items. This makes research much more effective and meaningful. We have several volunteers who are trained and working on the cataloging project, including our Collection Manager, Bob Doan, who catalogs all new incoming donations.  Thanks to a recent grant from the Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust, the Society has again hired a cataloger who will be working with us throughout the summer and fall. The progress has been remarkable when we have had the opportunity to hire someone who puts in anywhere from 12 to 18 hours of cataloging per week.

While curating the Meeting House Hill exhibit this winter and spring, I was able to learn many things about the neighborhood that had previously been buried in the archives. I’m excited that museum visitors are learning new things about the neighborhood; they may not even realize that some of the very interesting pieces of the exhibit were made possible due to the museum software and the cataloging project.

Next Wednesday, May 20, the evening will start at 6:30pm with a brief business meeting, followed by the program where I will demonstrate the software and highlight recent and significant items from our collections which I am sure you will find interesting. Admission to the program is free for current members of the South Portland Historical Society; non-members may attend with a $10 donation. FMI, visit us on Facebook at South Portland Historical Society or call 767-7299.

May 22, 2015

Cape Elizabeth Origins, Part 4: New Beginning

By Craig H. Skelton


One resident who was quite vocally against the idea of bringing in public water to Cape Elizabeth was Albert Boyd who lived near the top of Meeting House Hill at 265 Cottage Road. One has to wonder about ill will when looking at this photograph of Mr. Boyd’s home. When the water district received approval to install public water, they erected a large water standpipe on the hill in 1892. You can see here how the location chosen appears to be right on Mr. Boyd’s property line. One can only imagine his anger when looking out his windows.

 It should be known that although the contract with the Portland Water Company in 1892 might have been the final straw in the ever increasing divide between the inner and outer Cape Elizabethans, discussions on the subject dividing the town appear to date back to before the Civil War. In 1854, a group of Ferry Village citizens led by Nathan Dyer petitioned the state legislature to divide the town or to allow them to secede.  It is my belief that this action relates to residents of the inner Cape’s dissatisfaction with the town form or government previously mentioned and the inefficiency caused by the requirement for a meeting of all town folk to vote upon an issue. 

 The next effort to divide the town occurred in 1873 and involved a committee made up of prominent inhabitants from Knightville, Ligonia, Ferry Village and Turner’s Island who met with the Portland City Council on the topic of annexation.  The most recognizable names of this group would have been Cyrus Cole and W.W. Fickett. This matter was soon brought before the town folk on October 23rd that same year and enough citizens at a town meeting opposed the idea and voted it down.  The results of the vote when entered into the record, sounded like a warning to the selectmen which I will paraphrase as: “…municipal officers and representatives, you are hereby instructed by the inhabitants and duly warned to employ your best means to discourage and prevent a movement to awaken or develop disaffection, sectional strife and antagonism among the people or to affect the division and partition of Cape Elizabeth…”        

 The matter of town water came up at the annual town meeting on March 6, 1882.  Surprisingly, no opposition by citizens was heard and they voted to allow the Portland Water Company to lay down pipes within the streets, the cost to be borne by the water company.  For that reason, it is thought to have passed.  Due to contract and rate disputes, though, the project never commenced.  The water company tried again in 1887 after circulating a petition through Knightville and Ferry Village to gauge demand.  They proposed again to bear the cost of installation and indicated the annual cost to be ten to twelve dollars per faucet.  A lack of interest at that time appears to have caused the plan to fail.

In 1893 the area increasingly being referred to as South Portland, generally from the present bridge to Spring Point, again sought to secede from the rest of the town. Very little opposition was voiced in the other waterfront villages yet a few staunch defenders still continued to resist alteration of the town.  When a hearing on the subject of a city charter came before the legal affairs committee in Augusta, gentlemen by the name of Hannaford, Staples and Clifford appeared on behalf of those wanting no changes to the old town and were successful in having the charter petition postponed to a later date. As with any political efforts, the separatists, annexationists and city charter men kept up their efforts in trying to overcome stubborn resistance and efforts of the separatists finally succeeded when they were able to present a petition signed by a majority of citizens urging a division of the town.                                                                                           

A meeting was held at Union Hall in South Portland on Wednesday, January 22, 1895, at which reports indicate a consensus was not achieved, however the state legislature acting on the petition requesting separation, legally divided the town of Cape Elizabeth effective on March 15, 1895.  A copy of the document reads more like a property deed than anything else for it covers about two full pages just in describing the line of separation between the two communities. Its final sentence reads “All by-laws now in force in the present town of Cape Elizabeth shall continue to be the by-laws of the town of South Portland.”  

 May 29, 2015

Schlotterbeck & Foss Apothecary

By Kathryn DiPhilippo


Schlotterbeck - City Square, SP.jpg

The accompanying photograph is another gem from the Hobbs Collection at South Portland Historical Society, recently donated by Jeff Hobbs. It is a tremendous image of the old Schlotterbeck & Foss apothecary that was found in “City Square” in Knightville in the late-1880s to early-1890s. City Square is the old name for Legion Square, the intersection of Cottage Road, Ocean Street and E Street. The name Legion Square became popular due to the American Legion hall being located on E Street for many years.

Schlotterbeck & Foss has historically been considered a Portland business, so we were delighted that this photograph came to light to show that they did operate a drug store here in South Portland (then known as Cape Elizabeth) from around 1888 to at least 1892. The company had its start as an apothecary, founded in 1866 by Augustus Schlotterbeck and Charles Foss. I’ve seen many Schlotterbeck & Foss apothecary bottles over the years, although all have had the Portland, Maine, location listed on them. If anyone out there has a bottle that identifies it as being from South Portland or Cape Elizabeth, I’d love to hear from you! You can reach the South Portland Historical Society at 767-7299.

Over the years, Schlotterbeck & Foss grew and changed, but it remains a Maine-based business. Its main offices recently moved from Portland to Westbrook and an additional warehouse facility is still located in Portland. Schlotterbeck & Foss has become a manufacturer and supplier of specialty sauces, condiments, salsas, salad dressings, syrups and other flavorings.