Portland is a neighborhood two miles northwest of downtown Louisville. Established in 1811, it was originally the largest of the major settlements in Kentucky and Indiana at the Falls of the Ohio River. In 1830, a canal was built around the Falls, causing many of the warehouses and shipyards to close. Economic power on the Falls shifted to nearby Louisville, which later annexed Portland.
A flood-prone area, Portland suffered major floods in 1937 and 1945 that drove many middle class families from the area. The area is now one of the most economically disadvantaged areas in Louisville. But efforts are underway to reverse this decline by focusing on the unique historic resources and character of the neighborhood.
Among the many historic buildings in Portland is the Marine Hospital (1852). A National Historic Landmark, the building was listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Places List in 2003. Today, however, rehabilitation of the property is underway, thanks to a public-private partnership, with plans to convert it into an interpretive center and a training center for health care workers.
Another major project is development of the Portland Wharf Park as an educational and heritage tourism venue. The site of the park is land that was flooded in 1937 and then cut off from the surrounding neighborhood by construction of a flood wall and later an interstate highway. A major component of the park’s development will be interpretation of the archeological remains of the portion of the neighborhood that once stood there and the importance of the site to the history of the Portland neighborhood and of Louisville.
Designated a Preserve America Community in January 2006.