2016-07-22 / Community

A Window on the Past

A look at South Portland’s Willard Beach, in postcards
By Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo
South Portland Historical Society


Above, the Willard Haven Hotel, the New Willard Inn, and various refreshments stands at Willard Beach. Left, beachgoers, and even some soldiers from Fort Preble, enjoying Willard Beach. Above, the Willard Haven Hotel, the New Willard Inn, and various refreshments stands at Willard Beach. Left, beachgoers, and even some soldiers from Fort Preble, enjoying Willard Beach. Summer is well underway in Maine and what a glorious summer this has been. South Portland’s Willard Beach has been a popular destination for residents on a hot summer day. While the beach was used in the early 1800s primarily by fishermen and lobstermen to get out to their boats, the usage of the beach has changed over the years. Most dramatically, a change happened in the mid- to late- 1890s after electric trolley extended service to the area; as a result of the trolley, the Willard Beach area was marketed as a vacation destination, a casino was built (not for gambling, but for dancing and entertainment), several hotels popped up on the beach and in close vicinity to it, vacationers from Canada would come for the summer, residents of Portland and elsewhere would come and stay in their summer cottages here, and various refreshment stands and stores came into existence to provide food and entertainment to the beachgoers. Around World War II, the beach saw more change as the trolley had been discontinued, Fort Preble was an active military base and residents had much less time and interest in going to the beach. In the decades since World War II, the beach has redeveloped and taken on a whole new life, with much effort put toward improving the water quality and the quality of the beach and dunes. I hope you enjoy these historic postcards of our own Willard Beach in times gone by.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of South Portland Historical Society.



People enjoying Willard Beach, with Fort Preble in the background. People enjoying Willard Beach, with Fort Preble in the background.

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