2019-01-11 / Community

A Window on the Past

Society seeks information on Finnan Haddie Smoke House
By Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo
South Portland Historical Society

The Finnan Haddie Smoke House on this atlas page from 1891. (Courtesy photo) The Finnan Haddie Smoke House on this atlas page from 1891. (Courtesy photo) One of the things I love about our work at South Portland Historical Society is the discovery of new people, businesses and other pieces of our community’s past that were never seemingly recorded. When we all go about our daily lives, we don’t think about taking a picture of our workplace or the grocery store that we walk into every week. We don’t think to write about our barber or crossing guard or doctor. There are essential people and places that we all encounter in our daily lives in a community, and these people and places sometimes disappear when no one writes about them.

Last week, we asked the community for information they might know about Cape Lumber Company that existed for 10 years in Knightville. We’ve received several calls already – thank you! This week, we have a similar request.

A few months ago, we received a donation from retired South Portland Police Officer Dick Miller of various items related to the history of our police department. He also donated a fantastic Maine atlas from 1891 that was new to us. On the page for Portland, there’s a decent amount of Cape Elizabeth’s (now South Portland’s) shoreline pictured, with names of businesses in existence at the time. In the Knightville/Mill Creek area, we can see the old (Thomas) Knight’s Wharf sticking out where the Anchorage Place condos now exist, and also a business that we had not previously heard of: Finnan Haddie Smoke House.

The atlas shows the Finnan Haddie Smoke House in the area where the Snow Squall restaurant and Port Harbor Marine are now located. We often talk about how the building that houses the Snow Squall was once the trolley barn, built in 1895 when the trolley lines first came into South Portland. This smoke house existed prior to that, however, and we have never seen a photograph of the business, nor have found anything written about it.

“Finnan haddie” is another name for smoked haddock. The term, and the smoking method, has its origins in Scotland. Many have praised the delicious flavor of finnan haddie; the flavor comes from lightly salting and smoking the haddock, often over green wood and/or peat.

We would love to hear from readers who might know anything about this business. Are you of Scottish descent? Perhaps you have an ancestor who worked in a smoke house here? If you have anything to share, please give us a call at 767-7299 or email us at sphistory04106@gmail.com. As we find more information about these businesses, we will share it in future columns.

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

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