The Neighborhood

A neighborhood with a vibrant history, fitting for the City of Portland, Maine.

Located on the harbor between the Old Port and Munjoy Hill, theIndia Street Neighborhood is Portland's oldest neighborhood.

The neighborhood was firstsettled by Europeans in the 17th century, and by the 20th century had become the center of Portland's transportation and home to the Maine's most diverse communities.

Today, ISN is changing rapidly. With the heavy industries long gone it now serves as a hotbed of residential development and house some of the premier restaurants in the city's famous food scene.

Most recently, the city adopted a comprehensive plan for the neighborhood, including Maine's first of its kind form-based building code, and the Portland's newest historic district.

  • A Brief Historical Introduction

    The history of the India Street neighborhood is as old as the history of Portland itself, as it was the site of the first European settlement on the Portland peninsula. Nothing, however, exists from this first settlement or from other early attempts at settlement. The first settlement was destroyed during conflicts with Native Americans in the 17th century, rebuilt and then destroyed again in the late 18th century by the British. Even the waterfront no longer resembles its early configuration, having been filled in during the mid-nineteenth century to accommodate maritime and railroad development.

  • Historical Significance

    The India Street neighborhood is significant for its association with the City’s nineteenth century free African American population. Two thirds of Portland’s African American citizens in the first half of the nineteenth century lived in the India Street neighborhood. The center of their community was the Abyssinian Church built in 1828.The church, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006, served as the community’s religious center, meeting hall, and school. Many of the homes and businesses associated with this community were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1866; however a small group of homes on or near Newbury Street and the church survived the fire. Although the Abyssinian Meeting House is located outside the proposed district boundaries (primarily because of its physical separation from the area of concentration of extant historic structures), it is individually designated as a local landmark and is strongly associated with the history, development and significance of the neighborhood.

  • Architectural Significance

    The proposed district possesses a significant concentration of buildings and structures that are united aesthetically. The neighborhood contains many examples, both high style and vernacular, of the Italianate and Second Empire styles. Both styles were popular when a large portion of the neighborhood was rebuilt following the Great Fire of 1866. Almost sixty percent of the 117 historic resources surveyed in the neighborhood were built from 1866 to 1890. Like the adjacent Old Port area, rebuilt during the same period, the predominance of these styles creates a distinctive architectural identity for the neighborhood.

Interested in reading more history?

A comprehensive report is available.