Cushing’s Point


North shore road on Cushing Point, South Portland, Maine ca. 1900. Looking north toward Portland’s East End and Monjoy Hill, lower left background. This location is southwest of Bug Light at the tip of Cushing Point. Lower left corner is the beginning of a beach which partly remains, but the shore is now industrial park and petroleum storage tanks. The house at right was taken down to build a shipyard in the early 1940s in the lead up to World War II. A trace of this road is visible in satellite images. From the H.M.Payson Collection, South Portland Historical Society

The Cushing’s Point area of South Portland, Maine, across the harbor and east of the Casco Bay ferry terminal in the old port, is an equally historic area. In the 19th century, Cushing’s Point was home to fishermen, fish houses, fishing boats, homes and beaches. Before the modern bridge was built in the 1916 travel between Portland and South Portland was by ferry or more distant bridges.

Cushing’s Point is at the northern tip of land that was Cape Elizabeth until the 1890s, an area more rural than suburban in the late 1800s. More houses were built at Cushing’s Point around the turn of the 20th century.

Before the United States entered World War II, the homes and land at Cushing’s Point were taken by eminent domain to build shipyards. Many of the homes, occupied by residents whose ancestors had built them, were demolished. In 1940 the Todd-Bath Iron Shipbuilding Company and in 1941 the South Portland Shipbuilding Company began building adjacent shipyards where those homes had stood.

Black granite monument at Cushing’s Point. Above far left in etched aerial view is Bug Light. The horse carriage’s location in the top photo is in the aerial view where the row of houses on the shore, right, meets the trees above the middle of the word “sacrifice.” Fishermen’s Voice photo

Between 1941 and 1945 the two companies would build 30 Ocean Ships for the British Navy and 244 Liberty ships for the U.S.-European lend-lease program.

Liberty Ships were 442' x 57' and were powered by triple-expansion steam engines. Todd-Bath ships were basin built, the first in the world to mass produce ships this way. The basin was filled with seawater and the ship towed out of the basin. South Portland Shipbuilding used traditional ways to launch their ships. The companies drew on the enormous resource of shipbuilding skills in Maine.

Ship and boat builders from the length of the Maine coast came to South Portland to work in the shipyards during these last years of the Great Depression. Among them were some who have become icons of the Maine boat building industry.