Public Gets Timely Tours of Portland’s Open Spaces By Expert


By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,506)

The public is invited to participate in three timely forums that will teach interested parties about public open spaces.  The three, free events are scheduled for September on two separate dates. Two of the tours focus on the history of Congress Square in Portland. The forums are hosted by the City’s Planning & Urban Development Department, with SPACE Gallery and the Portland Public Library.

On Wednesday, September 4th, the public can join historian Scott Hanson and walk through the centuries to learn more about Congress Square, the five-way intersection and surrounding properties at the center of the city’s visioning process.  There are two tours that day starting at the SPACE Gallery; one tour starts at 12:30 pm and the other at 6:00 pm.  Each tour lasts l/2 hour. Hanson, of Sutherland Conservation & Consulting, Augusta, is the organization’s architecural historian. From 2005 – 2010, he was Preservation Planner for the City of Portland.  In that position, he worked with numerous parties on hundreds of residential and commercial projects.  Hanson, was deeply  involved in the creation of the Congress Street Historic District which was the first historic district in Maine to be certified by the National Park Service.  He also worked on the city’s historic Preservation Ordinance about four years ago.  In 2009, Scott received a Statewide Historic Preservation Honor Award from Maine Preservation for his work on the Congress Street  Historic District Initiative.

The third timely and free event is the presentation of a documentary film on Thursday, September 12th at 7:30 pm at Rines Auditorium, Portland Public Library, Congress Street.  The film:  “Social Life of Small Urban Spaces” is by William H Whyte.  It’s a witty and original film about the open spaces of cities and how people use them.  Beginning at New York’s Seagram Plaza, one of the most used open areas in the city, the film proceeds to analyze why this space is so popular and how other urban oases, both in New York and elsewhere, measure up.  Based on direct observation of what people do, the film presents a remarkably engaging and informative tour of the open landscape and looks at how it can be made more hospitable to those who live in it.  Discussion to follow.

In 1980, William H. Whyte wrote the book, “The Social Life of Small Uban Spaces”  on observing the social patterns of individuals interactng in public spaces of urban centers.  He also wrote the classic – “The Organization Man.”   Whyte, a New York City resident lived from 1917 – 1999.

For more information on these events, please contact City Urban Designer Caitlin Cameron at ccameron@portlandmainegov or find updates at