Well-loved residential area with good walkability and a split personality.
Affluent single-family homes on the Western Prom contrast with adjacent multifamily buildings closer to the city’s center.

The West End has a reputation among those who don’t live there as Portland’s most affluent neighborhood.

But to those who do, it’s really two different neighborhoods.

At one extreme, the West End is known for its row of multimillion-dollar mansions lining the scenic Western Promenade.

At the other extreme, it has a dense concentration of low-income public housing and subsidized rental units on stretches of Danforth and Salem streets.

“I think it’s an old stereotype,” said Ian Jacob, president of the West End Neighborhood Association. “The East End was always the working class, and the West End was always the more affluent. That is because the Western Promenade is so picturesque.”

Beyond its mansions and its public housing projects, however, the neighborhood is primarily defined by its mix of mostly single-family homes to the west and a plethora of multifamily homes to the east, along with an abundance of local cafes, markets, restaurants and laundromats within walking distance of downtown.

West End
A flag hangs on the porch of home on Spring Street in the West End. Even in the less affluent areas of the neighborhood, rents are on the rise. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

To Jacob, the sense that the West End is better defined as two neighborhoods is reinforced by the fact that it has two neighborhood associations to address the different needs of the people who live there.

Anne Pringle, president of the Western Promenade Neighborhood Association, agrees.

Her association covers a section of the West End with larger house lots. It has few rental units and is entirely residential other than Maine Medical Center at its northwestern edge. Its boundaries are the Western Promenade park on the west, Danforth Street on the south, Emery Street on the east and the western half of Brackett and Bramhall streets to the north.

Pringle lives on Neal Street, in the heart of what is now truly among the most affluent sections of the city. But when she and her husband moved to the brick house in the mid-1970s, there was a boarded-up school across the street. People were moving away, not buying up.

People asked her at the time why she wanted to live there. Now Pringle said people are more apt to ask her how she can afford to live there.

“This has over time become a very affluent neighborhood.”

“This has over time become a very affluent neighborhood,” she said.

The West End Neighborhood Association considers its boundaries to be State Street on the East, Emery Street on the West, Congress Street to the north and York Street to the south. The neighborhood’s housing is dominated by multifamily apartments and condominiums.

This section of the West End is known for its walkability. It has numerous cafes – Oh No and Omi’s on the southern end of Brackett Street, Aurora Provisions on Pine Street, and Tandem and Yordprom on Congress Street – and a neighborhood bar, Ruski’s, on Danforth. It also has popular restaurants and small groceries within strolling distance for locals.

In the neighborhood’s Western Prom section, many of the children attend the private, college preparatory Waynflete School tucked within its residential streets. The neighborhood’s other section has the public Reiche Elementary School at its heart.


Jacob, who first moved to his neighborhood in 1991, said he’s seen rents go from “dirt cheap” to now being unaffordable to the working-class people who once occupied the area.

Many corner stores, such as the former Spring Street Variety, are now closed. Jacob sees them getting replaced by high-end stores such as Rosemont Market, which is located in a new building at Brackett and Pine streets with luxury apartments above it.

West End
Timothy Holt sits on the steps of his Danforth Street apartment. The West End is known for its picturesque mansions, but also contains many multifamily homes and small neighborhood businesses. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Until recently, the section of the city had two laundromats, Soap Bubble on Pine and Washboard Eco-Laundry on Danforth. But Washboard lost its lease this year because of rising rental costs, leaving those living in subsidized housing a block away without a service they relied on, Jacob said.

“If it turned out that Soap Bubble closes, the housing that will become desirable are ones with laundry on site,” he said.

While Pringle sees the top issues for the Western Promenade Neighborhood Association as preserving its residential zoning integrity, historic character and architecture, Jacob says the West End Neighborhood Association’s main concerns are keeping the remaining corner stores and local services that make it so attractive.

“I’m not saying we need to go back to that, but if we start losing all of these services, we certainly won’t be able to keep the West End as walkable and desirable as it is now,” he said. “Eventually, the people who chose to move here – the affluent or the retirees – if the trend keeps going, the things that drew them here will no longer be here.”

Click and drag the slider to compare photos; State Street near the corner of Gray Street on Sept. 1, 2015. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer. 1970 Press Herald photograph (photographer uncredited)


Staff photos by Whitney Hayward

Flo Edwards, 34, is a dentist and considers Portland her hometown. She spent her childhood in the city and moved around as an adult, returning to the city two years ago. Edwards said she decided on the neighborhood because “I always thought the West End was cool.” She pays $1,400 a month in rent, for something that is “technically, a two-bedroom” with only water included in the rent.

“I’m looking to move out of the neighborhood to elsewhere in Portland. We’ve had problems with drunk people passed out in our driveway, street noise, and it’s hard in the winter with a narrow driveway with snow piled on the street,” Edwards said.

Denise Doherty, 41, stands outside her condo on Lewis Street. She is a yoga instructor and dog walker and originally from Staten Island, New York. She moved to Portland’s West End more than 15 years ago, when it “was a bunch of artists with funky cool apartments, a little mecca of gems everywhere, and the community was connected and friendly,” Doherty said. “That connection is still here in the community, but now there are more children, more families, more owners, and the artistic young community has been lost a bit to middle-aged owners with more money.”

Before purchasing her condo Doherty rented an apartment across the street, where she never paid more than $750 a month in rent. The building has since been renovated, and a similar unit to the one she rented now fetches more than $2,000 a month.

R.J. Condon, 27, has lived in the West End for two years. He is originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and is a graphic designer and Maine College of Art student. He and his girlfriend live in a studio apartment of 400 square feet and pay $1,000 a month in rent. They moved here after a cross-country road trip. They liked Maine but didn’t have any particular driving force that brought them here. They looked for “a solid month” before finding their apartment, and weren’t looking exclusively in the West End. They aren’t necessarily looking to leave the neighborhood, but are considering towns outside Portland, such as Yarmouth, in order to “be closer to the woods” and get out of the city.

Lexie Bergey, 28, is a bartender, server and mother of Lila Bergey, 3. She considers Portland her hometown and lives on Danforth Street in a condo that she and her husband own. Including condo fees, she pays the equivalent of $1,200 a month for housing.

“There’s a lot going on here (in the West End) and a lot of good food.” She said there is less noise from foot traffic compared to the Old Port. Now that Lila is getting older, the family is looking to move out of Portland, because they can’t find a house reasonably priced. “I’m sad to leave, but we need to expand, and that’s the reality,” Bergey said.

Jake Nilsson, 24, who originally is from Colorado, moved to Portland four years ago, and is employed as a construction worker. He has two roommates and pays $525 a month in rent, utilities not included. He was attracted to Portland for its recovery resources for sobriety, and said he wanted to move to the West End because it seemed more residential, and more family-oriented.

“(Since moving here) the neighborhood is changing in good ways, there’s new development and buildings are getting fixed. The market seems to be exploding,” Nilsson said.

He said he loves the West End, but is concerned about a low-income housing development planned for land that tenants in his building use as a parking lot. He said 70 people park there, and finding parking when the city is under a parking ban was a struggle last winter.

George Anastasio, 25, moved to Portland two years ago to start breeding dogs for truffle hunting. He’s originally from a suburb of Boston. He came to Portland with a budget of $500-$700 monthly, and said it wasn’t difficult to find housing within that budget with a roommate. Anastasio said he didn’t come to Portland knowing he wanted to live in the West End, but now that he’s lived in his apartment for a couple of years, he said it’s his favorite part of the city. He finds that it is safe and very little foot traffic comes through the neighborhood.


We asked Portlanders to describe their neighborhoods, and these are the words they used.

My neighborhood is a beautiful place that's probably best known for large houses. The people who live here are diverse. Our favorite neighborhood business is Bonobo and when we have spare time we like to visit the Reiche playground for fun. Our neighborhood's best-kept secret is probably LFK. Erin
My neighborhood is a neighborly place that's probably best known for being a great place to trick-or-treat. The people who live here are neighborly. Our favorite neighborhood business is Bonobo and when we have spare time we like to visit each other for fun. Our neighborhood's best-kept secret is probably how neighborly we are. Kathryn
My neighborhood is a thriving residential place that's probably best known for its old homes. The people who live here are diverse. Our favorite neighborhood business is OhNo Cafe and when we have spare time we like to visit Local 188 for fun. Our neighborhood's best-kept secret is probably Fresh Approach. Alex


A video camera mounted on an FAA approved, remote-controlled drone provides an unusual view of Portland’s rental neighborhoods.

View Drone Footage of the West End