2018-08-03 / Community

A Window on the Past

Willard Beach once dominated by Willard Haven Hotel
By Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo
South Portland Historical Society


The Willard Haven Hotel sprawls across Willard Beach, between Deake and Willard streets, with the New Willard Inn and other recreational businesses shown just beyond. (Courtesy photo) The Willard Haven Hotel sprawls across Willard Beach, between Deake and Willard streets, with the New Willard Inn and other recreational businesses shown just beyond. (Courtesy photo) In this week’s column, we take a last look at the sprawling Willard Haven Hotel on Willard Beach. As we noted in the column over the past two weeks, the hotel was originally the home of the Willard family on Deake Street in the early 1800s. The home began its transformation in the 1890s when the Willards began taking in boarders and then started to expand the home into a fully operational hotel.

In the early 1900s, Willard Beach was quite the popular destination in summer for Canadian tourists and seasonal summer residents of the neighborhood. There were numerous places to stay, including: the Willard Haven Hotel and New Willard Inn on Willard Beach; the Cloyester, Chase and the Hastings in Loveitt’s Field; the Tregon House on Willard Street; and Grand View Hotel on Preble Street.

The Willard Haven Hotel was ideally situated on the beach and offered a tremendous view to its guests. The hotel was damaged by fire in 1944, but renovated afterward so that it could continue operating. By the early 1960s, however, the hotel was badly in need of repair and its owners finally shuttered the windows. Thomas Carmody, a South Portland police officer who was already operating the business next door under the name, The Dory, then bought the Willard Haven Hotel with plans to demolish the building and build a new two-story, 16-unit apartment building on the site. In 1965, Carmody obtained permission from the Board of Zoning Appeals, but neighbors ended up taking the matter to court and obtained a reversal of the decision. By 1967, much of the building had been demolished, but the remains were an eyesore. The building was condemned and destroyed in a controlled burn by the South Portland Fire Department in July 1967.

To learn more about South Portland’s history, I encourage you to visit the South Portland Historical Society’s museum at Bug Light Park. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also search for and view more than 10,000 historic images of South Portland on the society’s online museum. Link to it through the society’s website at www.sphistory.org.

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

Return to top