South Portland is unrecognizable from where it stood a century ago. But did you know there’s still no hill in Lair Hill? Who is the John of John’s Landing? And before the 21st century redevelopment, what was the South Waterfront really like? Avail yourself of this fantastic South Portland history, impress your friends & clients, and take pride in the fascinating area where you work!
South Portland History Book:
Stephen Leflar’s 2007 e-book “The Pursuit of Happiness” catalogs much of South Portland’s storied history. Download it now!
The Pursuit of HappinessDownload the FREE e-book here (30MB PDF Doc).
South Portland Neighborhood History
John’s Landing is named for B.P. John’s Furniture Company, which once held its headquarters on the corner of Macadam & Boundary. Among the largest companies occupying the industrial South Waterfront, B.P. John’s Furniture Company closed in 1977, after almost 90 years of existence. Coincidentally, legendary Portland developers John W. Storrs & John D. Gray (who would eventually develop Bend & the Oregon Coast into destination retreats) transformed the area into a residential & commercial neighborhood, decades ahead of the Pearl District’s famous Cinderella redevelopment.
There is no hill in Lair Hill. William Lair Hill, 19th century Portland attorney, author, and The Oregonian editor, owned property in the area. When the area was redeveloped in the 1950’s, it was named for him. Once a hub for Italian, Irish, and Jewish immigrants, the redevelopment dispersed some of these communities, but their influence is still felt today: South Portland still holds a visible & active Jewish community. The modern Cedarwood Waldorf School, for example, is housed in the historic Neighborhood House, which was once a Jewish facility.
While John’s Landing turned from industrial to residential/commercial in the mid 20th century, the rest of the South Waterfront remained as a brownfield industrial sector, growing more depressed as the century carried forward. But by the 21st century, billions of dollars have been poured into renovating the area, making it one of the largest ongoing urban renewal projects in American history. With some retail & convenience services offered, the South Waterfront is ideally a condo community surrounded by Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)’s glistening research centers.