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Robin Garr, host of the LouisvilleTown website, says:

"If history had broken in just a slightly different way some 150 years ago, it's entirely possible that Louisville and Portland, Ky., could have grown into Twin Cities at the Falls of the Ohio.

And if they had, it's entirely reasonable to assume that Portland would have become the brawling, boisterous and blue-collar sibling, very much like St. Paul to Louisville's Minneapolis or Tampa to its St. Pete."

..or, more likely, Salford to Louisville's Manchester.

Portland is one of Louisvilles more unusual neighborhoods, due to its history, street plan, and even architecture.* But first, as backrounder, some geography.

The Ohio River at Louisville gets a bit complicated, pooling, then twisting and bending itself over the "Falls of the Ohio", really a series of whitewater rapids, made even more complex by exposed rock faces at low water and islands up & downstream.

..and a 1766 map, made by a British expedition down the Ohio.* Probably the earliest rendition. could shoot the rapids via three "chutes" at high water..the "Indiana Chute", "Kentucky Chute", & "Middle Shoot" , with the Indiana Chute being the most favored..the width of passages through the rocks* here was the governing width for flatboats on the river.* A special kind of river pilot, the "falls pilot" was used to navigate the rapids during steamboat days.* Yet, at low water, one had to portage, either on the Indiana or Ohio side.*

Eventually settlement began.* First, Louisville, and forts on both sides of the river, as per this 1790s map:

...and, soon, other settlements, to take advantage of this break in river navigation.* Portland and Shippingport were the two Kentucky settlements that arose as ports for downriver shipping and cartage around the Falls.

Shippingport was founded by a French settler, James Berthoud, and Portland by William Lytle.* I'm not sure if this was the same William Lytle who figured in early Cincinnati history.* There is some evidence that Lytle did have a canal around the falls in mind when he chose his town site.* The town included "Portland Proper", and a string of outlots following the portage road to Louisville (later turned into a plank road/turnpike in 1818)

In any case, the both settlements had close trade ties with New Orleans and the French community there, and drew French settlers, including John James Audubon, famous for his bird paintings, but also, locally doing portature, such as this one of Marie Berthoud, wife of the founder of Shippingport:

So, Portland and Shippingport developed as competing towns to Louisville.* Louisville, however, had the advantage of a better harbor on the river, and also an earlier start.* William Lytle ran into financial difficulties and his properites taken by the Bank of the United States, who subdivided the outlots (hence the local street name "Bank Street")..subdivided in time to recieve the wave of Irish immigrants that hit Louisville.* Then a canal was built around the falls on the Kentucky side, the Louisville & Portland Canal, in 1830, with locks at Shippingport.*

The canal was built to 1820s era steamship sizes, and was obsolete by the 1850s, so there was still some demand for "forwarding & commission buisness" around the Falls, which was met by the construction of a railroad from the Portland wharf to Louisville in 1838.* The big potential boost to Portlands fortunes was inland railroad connections, as railroad terminus for Lexington.* Lexington had proposed to build a railroad to the Ohio, and wanted that railroad to terminate in Portland, bipassing rival Louisville.* If this strategy had worked Portland may have developed into the "twin city" of Louisville.* Instead, the Lexington railroad terminated at Louisville, which did become the "big city" at the Falls of the Ohio, the "Falls City".* Portland ended up annexed to Louisville in the 1850s, though it has retained a seperate identity to this day.

Portland in the 1850s...the wharf along the Ohio, Shippingport, the canal, and the developement along the turnpike to Louisville are all visible, as is the railroad.

A 1850s view towards Portland and Sand Island from Indiana:

And a late 1850s map, showing how Louisville in relation to Portland. By this time the L&N railroad had been built, which really was the economic driver for Louisville after the decline of steamboat traffic

The Louisville & Portland canal was enlarged in 1870, effectively ending any need to tranship freight, and the Kentucky & Indiana Terminal (K&IT) Bridge was built in the 1880s, connecting Louisville with the east side of New Albany.* This was the first bridge to permit vehicles to cross as well as trains.*

By the 1930s Louisville had grown up around Portland, which became a blue-collar, mostly Irish enclave in Louisvilles West End...sort of the "Bridgeport" or "Irish Channel" of Louisville. ..seperated from the city by industry & the K&IT RR grade elevations and sorting yards.* Remarkably, Shippingport still existed, too, though partially washed away by Ohio floods.* The 1937 Flood was the coup de grace for Shippingport, which was finally abandoned.* The flood also led to the construction of the levee & floodwall, which cut Portland off from the river (orange line in map below) and resulted in the removal of about half of "Portland Proper".*

The construction of I-64 followed the levee in the 1960s/early 70s.

Yet there is renewed interest in old Portland, as it is apparently a great archeological site.* The streets and wharf are still there as are the foundations of the old houses, shops, and inns, thus an "archeological park" has been proposed to reconnect Portland with the river

Now, for a brief pix tour of this unusual neighborhood....
First, whats left of the Falls of the Ohio, looking at the "Indiana Chute"...the railroad bridge was the first across the Ohio at Louisville, and was designed to permit steamboats to pass under to use the chutes...

Heading towards Portland we look back at downtown Louisville.* The vacant area in front used to be a notrious slum, "Bug Alley".

Passing through an industrial area

..the streets begin to angle off Louisvilles grid as you enter Portland

Nelligan Hall, a relic of Portlands' Irish past.* Louisville had as much or more Irish immigration as German and this was one of the three historical Irish neighborhoods.* Portland was the original home of St. Xavier, one of Louisville's Catholic high schools. "Portland Irish": the neighborhood had (still has) a rough reputation.

Portland neighborhood shots.* Quite a bit of Italianate here, and also the frame bldg w. the metal roof is very "Louisville".

Oddly enough, Louisville does not have a historical musuem, but Portland does...the Portland Museum is built around the old 'Beech Grove' house.* This is probably one of the very few neighborhood-specific musuems in the US.* *I have not visited due to the inconvenient hours.

...I think its geared mostly to school kids on field trips.

More neighborhood shots...there are small buisness scattered around.

And a good example of a "camelback" shotgun house..the second floor on the rear is the camelback. Urban legend has it that these where built so as to avoid taxes...the one story front meant the house would be taxed as one rather than two storys.* Not true, but a nice story.* Pretty typical later Louisville version details, too: the hip roof & rough cut stone columns on the porch.*

The shotgun houseform is really a New Orleans specialty (originally from Hati, which was also a French colony, based on houseforms from Africa), and this may have been the first neighborhood they appeared in in Louisville due to the local commercial connections with New Oreleans.* A Carribean houseform in the Ohio Valley...

Note the green chimney on the house to the right. Perhaps he got a deal from Shaheens Department Store across the street, who seemed to be using alot of green on that wall sign.*

On to the oldest part of Portland, "Portland Proper".*

Notre Dame du Port...the present church dates from the 1870s.

On the churchyard, some surving wharf chains

The streets in this part of Portland are very wide, permitting perpendicular-to-the-curb parking, but are that way to permit easy movement and turning of horse and wagon teams working the wharf and Falls cargo transhipment trade.

Close-ups of some of the oldest houses in Portland, and Louisville.*

Though gone, from old illustrations the Portland wharf looked alot like the riverfronts in modern Ripley or Augusta.

The Squire Jacob Earick house.* Supposedly the oldest in Portland, and one of the oldest in Louisville.* The house sits on a rise, sort of an artificial levee, and would have commanded a fine view of the river.* Urban legend has it that some of the interior supports were from a ship that wrecked at the Falls.*

Unfortunatly it looks like a past attempt at restoration failed, and the house appears to be collapsing.

The owner, Squire Earick....

....was a local magistrate as well as foundryman, and the cellar of the house was supposedly used as a jail.

Portland streetscape

The rise overlooking the river was a favored location for these italianate villas & townhouses, some build by steamboat captains.

..and one Federal rowhouse.

Also, this part of Portland has a collection of early shotgun houses

The Portland Cemetary is a bit of greenspace in the neighborhood, as well as the resting place of early Portlanders

Another bit of neighborhood greenspace is the US Marine Hospital grounds, surrouned by a maginficent iron fence

And the corner posts have a neat crossed-anchor-and-caduceus decorative device, with a "US" monogram below, worked into what looks like an acorn form.

Deisgned by Robert Mills and built in 1851, the US Marine Hospital was one of seven built along the "western waters" to house ill boatmen.* This is the only one left, and as such was on the National Trusts 11 Most Endangered List because, as you can see, it is falling apart.

The hospital had balconies so the boatmen could watch the passing river traffic on the Portland Canal while they recovered.

...the balconies have interesting decorative iron railings

And, finally, back to the river.* A view of the modern Louisville and Portland canal from the levee, looking back towards Louisville...

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