As you explore through the increasingly popular City of Portland, it is hard to miss the beautiful structures of the historic churches in Portland, Maine that give a unique view into the town’s heritage. Although many of the churches have been rebuilt or renovated over the years, each of the following church buildings have a significance in Portland’s history.
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
The cathedral is a Gothic Revival structure with a rich history dating back to 1866 when the construction began. Unfortunately, the same year was the historic fire that almost destroyed the city and interrupted the construction. It was not completed until 1869. The Cathedral has three steeples, the highest of which soars 204 feet high and is the tallest structure in Portland. It overlooks Portland Harbor and Casco Bay to the east and the New Hampshire mountains to the west.
The cathedral is the Mother Church of the Diocese of Portland. The building houses beautiful historic and contemporary artwork. Tours are available where you will hear about the history of the cathedral as well as different elements of the Catholic faith.
The Abyssinian Meeting House
This church is Maine’s oldest African-American church building, finished in about 1831. The church is one of the few buildings that survived the fire of 1866. In 1917, the building was sold and the congregation dissolved. It was then used for several purposes, such as a stable, antique store and as apartments before being seized by the city for unpaid taxes. Fortunately, it was purchased for historic preservation in 1998 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. It was also part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
Chestnut Street Methodist Church
Now known as the beautiful Grace Restaurant, with an exquisite ambiance for a restaurant. It is also an amazing place to have an event or to enjoy dinner and soak up the atmosphere.
The church was originally built in 1856 in the Gothic style and also survived the 1866 fire. It is one of the few works of the local architect Charles Alexander that is still standing. In 1904, the church hosted the 24th annual convention of the Maine Women’s Suffragist Association.
First Parish Church
The congregation was formed in 1674, one of the earliest groups in the City of Portland. The current building was built in 1825 in the federal-style architecture. Because the church was built of granite, it was able to withstand the 1866 fire. Today, the congregation is still very active, being very vocal for civil rights for the LGBT community.
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
St. Paul’s was founded as a mission church in 1763. The first building was lost in the Revolutionary War. The second church building was destroyed by the 1866 fire. Today’s building is purposefully built away from the city center on Congress Street. Architect George Pelham designed the simple gothic style church with stunning stained-glass windows and other artwork. The church serves the local seagoing community as the Maritime Church, and it has remained true to the Anglican faith.
Pass by some of these beautiful churches as well as many other historic sites in Portland, Maine on the City & Lighthouse tour offered daily from May-October with Portland Explorer Tours.