2014-04-11 / Community

A Window on the Past

Lost neighborhood: South Portland’s Ligonia
By Craig Skelton
South Portland Historical Society


An area of South Portland known as Ligonia has all but disappeared. A marker in Calvary Cemetery can still be found. (Courtesy photo) An area of South Portland known as Ligonia has all but disappeared. A marker in Calvary Cemetery can still be found. (Courtesy photo) By all appearances, progress washed away all traces of Ligonia long ago. Except, I did find one small remnant tucked away in a distant corner of Calvary Cemetery. Difficult to make out in the accompanying photograph, the marquee is now hanging upside down, yet I’m sure I once saw a picture of this gate with the village name clearly displayed.

In the mid-1800s, the entire area from today’s Cash Corner to the waterfront was referred to as Ligonia. The area along the waterfront was the site of a Civil War training camp under the name Camp Abraham Lincoln and later was renamed Camp Berry. Following the Civil War, a company called Portland Rolling Mills built a facility along the waterfront and worker housing; a school and a church soon sprung up. Since roughly the 1880s, the intersection of Main Street and Broadway took on the name Cash Corner and the Ligonia village name became affiliated just with the area closer to the waterfront.

A historical researcher named Hazel Spencer Mack shared some of her fond memories of Ligonia, which were published in the “History of South Portland,” printed in 1992. She recalled there was only one grocery store, called Fuller’s, which was well-kept and clean. Customers did not frequent the store, however, because a driver would stop by in the morning for their grocery order and return to deliver the order in the afternoon. The children of Ligonia did frequent the store for its penny candy.

One item you would find very little of on the shelves was bread, as Hazel recalled that it was a disgrace for a housewife of that time to not bake her own for the family. In the early part of the 20th century when automobiles became more common, Fuller’s Grocery Store closed when people became more mobile and were attracted to bright new grocery stores in Portland.

There were few conveniences before indoor plumbing and area residents would walk to a water spigot with their buckets each day to fill them. In the wintertime, the spigot frequently froze and residents would have to wait for hours while the water company tried to get the flow going again.

Trenches left behind by the men in training when the area was occupied by Camp Berry served as an area for the kids to play “soldier” and it is also said those trenches were used by a manufacturer of sugar in the processing of beet sugar.

Many changes have occurred in this area and the proximity to the harbor fueled a transition from neighborhood homes of commercial and industrial uses. If you drive today on the spur from Main Street to Route 295 or Veteran’s Bridge, large brightly painted oil tanks and cemetery expansion occupy most of what was once Ligonia.

Although there may be fewer and fewer folks around that share memories of the village once located there, I find it interesting when listening to scanner frequencies that the police dispatchers still refer to this area around Main and Lincoln Street as Ligonia.

Note to readers: we are searching for a photograph of Bix Furniture Stripping, formerly located at 158 Pickett St. If you have a photo to share, please contact the society at 767- 7299.

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

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