The Portland Observatory Opens Today, Saturday May 27th for the Season


The Historic Portland Observatory Opened Today,  Saturday, May 27th for The Season.

The historic Portland Observatory opened this morning for the summer season.  It opened  with no fanfare, although in past years  the opening has featured refreshments, an appearance by the District’s City Councilor as well as an appearance by descendents of the founder.  In years past, some of the ships original signal flags were flying from the top of the Observatory.  But not today.  It’s open today until 4:00 pm with guided tours every half hour, the last one at 4:00 pm.

Portland Harbor is one of the deepest ports on the east coast.  That was an essential that led to the establishment of Portland as a major commercial port on the east coast and during World War 11 as an important base in the maritime defense of the state.

Back in 1807, Portland, still part of Massachusetts, was a busy port.  Ships arrived near the foot of Munjoy Hill.  Then they turned toward the great Portland whaves where they found docking and waited to be unloaded.  One thing was missing, however. Ship owners who lived on the west end of Portland had no way of knowing that their ships full of cargo, sometimes perishable, had arrived in Potland.  Ship owners needed time to locate crews that could unload at wharf spaces that needed to be reserved – both expensive consideration.

It was Captain Lemuel Moody, a Portland resident with a passin for the sea, who solved the problem.  He constructed the 86 ft. high Portland Observatory with financial support from the Portland Monument Society.

Because of the height and location, Munjoy HIll was selected as the spot for the  Tower’s construction.  No foundation was dug for the Tower.  Rather, it is secured by earth level tons of granite stone.  The Captain devised a system of communication via flags and penants for a fee with ship owners.  When he identified a ship or ships entering, he’d raise the appropriate signal flag from three flag poles above the Observatory.  Other cities on the east coast constructed similar signal towers, but Portland Observatory is the only one that remains today.

For more background information on the history of the Portland Observatory. please visit post herein dated August 14, 2021.