Agateway to the southern part of the city, Libbytown is generally considered the area of Park Avenue and Congress Street bordered by Sewell Street, the Fore River and Gilman Street.
Named after George Libby, an Irish immigrant who moved to the area in the mid-19th century and owned three businesses there, it was a quiet, cohesive neighborhood of working-class residents until the early 1970s, when Interstate 295 was built through the middle of it.
About 100 houses and apartment units were torn down to make way for the highway and interchange.
Another staple of the old neighborhood was Union Station, Maine’s transportation hub for much of the 20th century, and its 138-foot-tall clock tower, which greeted tens of thousands of travelers each year. Once people stopped riding trains and started buying automobiles, Union Station became obsolete and was torn down in 1961.
Going farther back, Libbytown was the entry point for major cattle drives from Crawford Notch, New Hampshire, and produce deliveries from Vermont after the Revolutionary War. Later, it was a landing area for goods shipped along a canal to Westbrook.
Even though the highway made the neighborhood more disjointed, it still serves as a center of activity. It’s home to Maine Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital; Hadlock Field, home to the Red Sox Double-A farm team, the Sea Dogs; and the Portland Transportation Center, the hub for Amtrak’s Downeaster and for Concord Coach Lines. And more change is on the way as the Thompson’s Point development is built out.
In 1990, before the tract was merged with neighboring, but demographically disparate, Stroudwater, Libbytown had the fewest college graduates of any neighborhood in the city aside from Bayside, and the least number of foreign-born residents.
More than half of the residents were renters.
We asked Portlanders to describe their neighborhoods, and these are the words they used.
My neighborhood is an offramp place that's probably best known for Tony's Donuts. The people who live here are quiet. Our favorite neighborhood business is Concord Coach and when we have spare time we like to visit the skatepark for fun. Our neighborhood's best-kept secret is probably not something I'll share here.
My neighborhood is a busy place that's probably best known for a lot of traffic. The people who live here are a mixed bag of the best that Portland has to offer. Our favorite neighborhood business is Tony's Donuts and when we have spare time we like to visit Douglas Fields for fun. Our neighborhood's best-kept secret is probably not telling.
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© 2015 MaineToday Media | Originally published Dec. 29, 2015