FEATURED ISLAND: Great Diamond Island
From Cissie Lindemanns “Historical Tour Of Casco Bay “
Prior to 1882, Great Hogg Island had been a place for early fisherman to obtain water, shelter and possibly timber to make repairs to their vessels. In 1890 it became an area for domestic animals, camping, picnic area and several farms. Edward Elwell in 1890 tells the origins of the name Hogg Island. Some thought it might be the name for a specific species of clam- but more likely the name came from the fact that domestic animals were brought in by early settlers and turned loose for security from the Indians. This was attested to by an account from Elizabeth Clark, a granddaughter of George Cleeves, that Phillip Lewis living on the island received money from people in Falmouth for feeding and watering their livestock.
By 1882 the island had become rather an exclusive resort. Seven years later in 1889 after the formation of the Association it reported 57 cottages and a population of 300 people. Now called Great Diamond Island the island became a summer resort for the elite. The name change was because it’s new more refiled population did not want their island referred to as “HOGG”. Steamboats and ferries were shuttling owners and visitors on and off the island even then. A Portland firm came up with a plan to build 506 cottages covering 126 acres, 30 avenues and streets. It was designated as The Great Diamond Island Association. Members built and operated a nine hole golf course, two tennis courts and a steamboat to carry them back and forth to Portland. The harbor was popular with the boating crowd and provided moorings for many of them.
However the threat of a world war, as it did on many of the islands, put an end to the idyllic time. I cant help mulling over it in my own mind what devastation wars and rumors of wars wreak. The fallout from the world trade center continues to be insidiously pervasive. Back to the past. The government built Fort McKinley as part of the Portland Harbor Defense System and exclusivity was no more. Soon the year round military personnel numbered 1,000 men putting the summer colony of 350 in the shade. There was a massive military build up. Cottages were rented and sold to accommodate the military. It turned out that Portland Harbor was never threatened in World Ward 1 and 11. By the 1850’s the government decided that it had no further use for the complex. All of the buildings and facilities stood empty. In 1961 it was put up for auction. The once powerful association went to auction but had neither the authority nor money to bid. Michael Mantalbono from New Jersey and another gentleman David Lukins made the winning bid. They bought 200 acres of Great Diamond Island, plus Fort McKinleys hospital, theatre, brick homes, paved roads, sewer systems, power and water plants for 42,500. In 1970 they sold it for a reported $225,000 to King Resources, an oil company who had bought the nearby Navy Oil Depot on Long Island. In 1972 King Resources went into bankruptcy and the island went into the hands of receivers.