Fort Allen Park Landscape Restoration Project Martha Lyon Landscape Architecture, LLC Regina S. Leonard, Landscape Architecture & Design for The Friends of the Eastern Promenade October 5, 2011/Revised October 26, 2011
… this spot, commanding a magnificent sea view…has proved one of the most popular resorts of our city during the summer months. ” - Commissioners of Cemeteries and Public Grounds, 1894
1876 Bird ’ s Eye View of Portland The first acquisition of land by the City on the Promenade came in 1828 The roadway had been constructed around Mount Joy by 1837 Young elm trees stood along the road edge.
In the 1870s, land at old Fort Allen belonged to the Grand Trunk Railway, the Deering Heirs, and F. W. Cummings. The Great Eastern wharves stood at the foot of the fort.
City engineer William Goodwin prepared a revaluation atlas in 1882, and showed property ownership at the old fort. The Fessendens were relatives of the Deerings.
“ steps should be taken to secure the old Fort Allen lot, so called, on the Eastern Promenade… ” Commissioners of Parks, Cemeteries & Public Grounds, 1890
The City purchased land from Henry Deering, Harry Fessenden and Francis Fessenden in 1890 In 1891, Goodwin prepared the first site plan for Fort Allen Park.
The initial improvements made to the new park included the construction of a rustic shelter or “ band stand, ” designed by Albert Winslow Cobb and John Calvin Stevens. William Burrows built the structure at a cost of $350.00.
Between 1890 and 1896, the City added several other amenities, including walkways, a loop drive, two overlook terraces, a flagpole, many benches, and pole lighting. The original earthen fort berms remained.
Cobblestone gutters (added in 1894) and plantings of flowering shrubs (added in 1897) further ornamented the park.
Tall elm trees stood along the Eastern Promenade, providing a strong outer edge to the park. Plantings within were kept low to preserve the views.
The City began to erect wrought iron fencing at the upper and lower terraces in 1896. Lower terrace fencing appeared in 1896, and upper terrace fencing followed in 1900. Plans to connect the two terraces via a set of broad central steps were in the works as early as 1896.
Rodman cannons, used in the Civil War, were acquired for the park in 1900. (Note the houses standing along the park ’ s northern property line)
Portland Mayor James Phinney Baxter, elected in 1892, voiced concern about the extent of private ownership of land along the harbor side of the Promenade. He began advocating for the purchase of this land for use by the public.
By 1904, Baxter had made a deal with the Grand Trunk Railroad to swap land on the north side of Fort Allen park for land at the terminus of Commercial Street. Around the same time, Baxter engaged the Olmsted Brothers, landscape architects, to prepare a plan for the entire Eastern Promenade.
By the first decades of the 20 th century, the elms planted in the mid 1800s along both sides of the Eastern Prom had reached significant height. Two rows stood along the west side, while one rimmed the east.
In 1911, the “ Cummings Lot ” was condemned for park purposes. The addition of the small parcel along the southern edge of the park, brought the total acreage to 4.55.
In 1913-1915, the gun from the battleship USS Maine was brought to Fort Allen Park and mounted in a concrete base. This effort launched a long tradition of siting memorials within the park landscape.
The Grand Army of the Republic placed a memorial bench in the park in1926. (Note the small-scale beds of flowers and shrubs throughout.) In 1935, the City added the Jacob Cousins memorial to the park.
Beginning in the 1930s, the City began to alter the historic design of the park, widening the roadway and overlook terrace, and replacing the cobblestone gutter with concrete curb and gutter.
In 1962, the mast, bell and navigation shield of the USS Portland was installed as a memorial at the Park. The Arctic Explorers ’ memorial, sited below the USS Portland, followed, and in 2003 a “ temporary ” memorial was created in honor of the 9/11 attacks.
In 1968, the Portland House was built on land abutting the south side of the park. At that time, the park plantings grew in a reverse pattern to what the City originally intended. Tall evergreens filled the park, while the outside edge stood barren.
A 1984 effort by the City parks department further eroded the historical integrity of the Fort Allen Park landscape. Crews removed the central and two perimeter walkways and straightened the loop road, and removed the wrought iron overlook fencing, replacing it with ornamental steel.
A 2004 master plan for the Eastern Promenade began to address the degradation of the historic landscape at Fort Allen Park. It called for the restoration of the original plantings, and for the introduction of new plantings to soften the park edges.
The plan recommended replacing the contemporary steel fencing with an historic replica, modified to meet current building codes.
In 2006, a group of citizens concerned about the future of Fort Allen Park and the Eastern Promenade, formed the Friends of the Eastern Promenade. One of the group ’ s first projects was the completion of the Fort Allen Trail, located in the bed of the Grand Trunk Railway.
<ul><li>Period of Significance </li></ul><ul><li>1890 - 1930 </li></ul>