2013-08-02 / Community

A Window on the Past

Street has history
By Craig Skelton
South Portland Historical Society

For those of you who followed the recent closure of the short end of Gorham Road to make way for construction of Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, the sale and development of a city street is not all that unusual. Such was the case back in 1978 when Frank Adam, owner of the Howard Johnson’s Restaurant and 40-room Royal Motor Inn directly behind it, petitioned the city to vacate a portion of Westbrook Street that bordered the inn.

The accompanying 1958 aerial photograph shows Westbrook Street once connected with Main Street where the turnpike Tspur now intersects. The Maine Department of Transportation closed off access to Westbrook Street at that intersection, leaving a dead end portion of Westbrook Street that serviced a few remaining residential homes. Built behind the restaurant after the aerial was taken was the Royal Motor Inn that followed closely along the edge of Westbrook Street where the tree line can be seen.

In the 1970s, Adam was working on acquisition of the homes behind the motor inn and after demolishing them, expanded Royal Motor Inn from 40 to a total of 121 rooms and operated it as the Howard Johnson Hotel. The building expansion crossed the former Westbrook Street, connecting the original building to an indoor pool wing and four-story hotel still in operation.

A New Hampshire company purchased the 121-room Howard Johnson Hotel in June 1998 from Adam’s company called Royal Motor Inn, Inc. Before Adam died in February 2003, he was honored as one of the first inductees to the Howard Johnson Hall of Fame.

Craig Skelton is a South Portland Historical Society member and guest columnist.

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