Long Island

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Spring on Long Island

 

Long Island is located 6 miles off the coast of Portland, accessible by Casco Bay Ferries (about 45 minutes), water taxi or private boat.  The island is 3 miles long and 1 mile wide, and has a winter population of 210 (according to the 2010 census), swelling to over 1000 in the summer. Many residents, summer and winter, work in the lobster industry. Long Island claims the best sand beaches in the bay, including South Beach, a state beach. The island has a “west end” and an “east end” with a conservation area in the center.

Like other Casco Bay islands, the early history of Long Island is of Native American seasonal inhabitation until ownership of land by John Sears as a fishing station.  Isaac Walker bought the island in 1665. Many of the owners in the early years were wealthy Boston area people, some of whom were members of the elite Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, including Isaac Walker. Ezekiel Cushing purchased land in 1732 but it wasn’t until his grandson, Ezekiel Cushing III, built a house and married in 1779 that the island was settled.  Soon after, other settlers arrived to make a livelihood out of farming, fishing, and catching lobsters.

In the 19th century, Long Island, also similar to other islands in the bay, became a tourist destination with hotels built to accommodate them. The Granite Springs Hotel was said to be the grandest of these hotels. In addition to tourists, summer residents began to arrive and build houses on the island.

During World War II, Long Island was partially taken over by the U.S. military, both Navy and Army. The island served as the fueling depot for the U.S. Navy.

Supply stations and Army buildings were constructed on the island including gun batteries and a seaplane field on the shore of the island. Some of these buildings still remain. Where the underground tank farms were located is now conservation area.

By the early 1990’s, when the City of Portland reassessed all of its property and the tax rate tripled on Long Island, islanders decided that local control was the only way to preserve the year round community. On July 1, 1993 the Town of Long Island became the first new town in Maine since 1925. It is now a vibrant community where citizens take a strong and active role in improving the quality of life for all. Municipal services have improved, the school system (K-5) is excellent, and taxes have gone down by 30%. The Long Island Learning Center (a school/library addition) was built in recent years, and as of 2016 the town has a brand new community center on Wharf Street, near where the ferry docks, which includes a home for the recreation department and the Long Island Historical Society. The Long Island Civic Association sponsors summer activities (including 4th of July festivities), a community garden, and owns Fowler’s Beach and a ball field.