2015-04-17 / Community

A Window on the Past

Photos donated to historical society
By Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo
South Portland Historical Society

This rare photo of the 1914 launch of the America at the P.H. Doyen shipyard in Knightville was recently donated to the South Portland Historical Society by Jeff Hobbs. (Courtesy photo) This rare photo of the 1914 launch of the America at the P.H. Doyen shipyard in Knightville was recently donated to the South Portland Historical Society by Jeff Hobbs. (Courtesy photo) The South Portland Historical Society would like to thank Jeff Hobbs of Hobbs Funeral Home for his recent donation of a collection of historic photographic images of South Portland. Most of the collection centers around the Soule family. Generations of this family lived in a home on the corner of Broadway and Cottage Road, roughly in the area where the six-story Mill Cove Apartments and its parking lot now exist. The apartment complex address is actually 10 Soule St.; Soule Street runs off Cottage Road, parallel to the Greenbelt, and is essentially used as the driveway into the complex.

Those of us who use that section of Greenbelt know that it is a particularly beautiful spot. Mill Creek comes through a culvert under Cottage Road and empties into Mill Cove and Casco Bay in that area. Ducks and even the occasional egret can be seen in the waters there. If you look closely, you can still clearly see the rocks going across that used to be part of the dam on which a tidal mill once sat.

Among the wonderful photos of the Soules, their beautiful home, and backyard was a rare find indeed: an unmarked photo of a ship being launched from an unnamed location. Having researched World War I shipbuilding in South Portland, I’ve seen a few other photos of a similar nature, so there was no doubt in my mind that we were looking at the P.H. Doyen Shipyard. Philip H. Doyen established his shipyard in 1914 and was actively building ships during World War I, just opposite the Soule home on the other side of the creek (Hannaford Supermarket and its parking lot now cover the former shipyard site). The ship being launched was clearly marked with the name America so after a little research, I found reference to a P.H. Doyen ship called the America operating in Portland Harbor in 1915; the ship was listed as a barge which had been built in 1914.

Looking at the accompanying photograph of the launch of the “America,” your eye is drawn to the ship itself and to all of the people gathered around admiring the launch. Looking more closely, you can pick out the surrounds of Mill Cove and, just to the right of the ship, you can even see the rocks that are still there today that make up the dam at the mouth of the creek.

Again, we give our thanks to Jeff Hobbs for his role in preserving these photographs of the Soule family over the years and for allowing us to preserve them for future generations at the South Portland Historical Society. We would also like to thank Hobbs Funeral Home for its gold-level business membership in the society. Hobbs has been a partner with us in historic preservation for many years. Our many business and individual members help to support our mission to collect and preserve local history and, especially, to make it possible for our organization to open its museum doors with free admission to the public. The museum will open for the 2015 season on Friday, May 1 and will be open daily, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., through Oct. 30.

If you would like to become a member and support the preservation of South Portland history, please check out our website at www.sphistory.org. Memberships start at $10 for seniors, $15 for individuals and $25 for families. You can even give us a call and become a member by phone with a credit card. For more information, call the society at 767-7299.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is director of South Portland Historical Society.

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