2012-11-16 / Community

A Window on the Past

Remembering the city’s war memorial music shell
By Kathryn DiPhilippo
South Portland Historical Society

A music shell was built in South Portland to encourage economic and job growth. (Courtesy photo) A music shell was built in South Portland to encourage economic and job growth. (Courtesy photo) This week’s “Window on the Past” is an interesting glimpse of the War Memorial Music Shell that was sponsored by the Stewart P. Morrill Post 35, American Legion and the Stewart P. Morrill Post Auxiliary Unit 35.

The music shell was built on the grounds of what is now Mahoney Middle School (although the school was South Portland High School at that time). The ground breaking was on May 17, 1947, and the completed music shell was dedicated on July 1 of that same year. To put this in perspective, keep in mind that World War II ended in 1945. The shipyards on South Portland’s east end had all closed, putting thousands of people out of work in greater Portland. The city embarked on a plan to create economic development; improving the quality of life to entice businesses to move here to provide jobs. The creation of Mill Creek Park started in 1945, converting the city dump in the center of town into a recreational space. The bathhouse at Willard Beach was also built. The American Legion’s contribution of this music shell would have been another added draw to our city.

The music shell was used frequently in its first three seasons when the post organized concerts in the 2,000-seat venue, but the shell was used only occasionally over the following 10 years after it had been deeded to the city. It was sold around 1960 and removed. The shell was later reassembled at Colby College and renamed in honor of Ralph Gould of Cape Elizabeth.

Note to readers: The South Portland Historical Society’s museum at Bug Light Park is still open, but the 2012 season is winding down quickly. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays through December. Also, don’t miss out on your chance to pick up a copy of “A History of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Including South Portland Prior to 1895,” which was recently republished; it is available in the museum gift shop, along with other local gift ideas for the holidays.

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