Historic House Island: A History


As one of the first settlements in the Portland area, Historic House Island has been one of the most significant landmarks in the area. With its proximity to the mainland and the large bay, the settlers built the first houses on this island and so named it House Island.

House Island is one of the most important historic landmark sites and cultural landscapes in the City of Portland. Its location at the center of the harbor, its significance in national and local history, and its importance to both the built and natural environment make it a top priority to preserve. House Island’s Fort Scammell protected Portland Harbor from the War of 1812 through the Civil War.

The northern half of House Island, three residential-scale buildings were known as the Ellis Island of the North. While serving as a federal immigration quarantine station from 1907-1937, the real Ellis Island sent their overflow of immigrants to the shores of House Island to be processed before being allowed to enter the country.  

House Island: A History

World War II brought back the importance and prominence of this 24-acre island. This strategic point in Casco Bay proved an essential element to the safety of the entire Atlantic Fleet. Still visible today, large iron rods embedded in the island were the tie in points for groups of submarine nets that kept the German submarines out of the North Atlantic Fleet birthing areas.

After the war, The Cushing family purchased the island from the US government saving the Fort and homes from demolition. The Cushings stewarded the island for nearly 60 years. During that time, they provided many tourists with a traditional Maine lobster bakes on this unique spot in the Bay.

The Island listed for sale in 2012 without protective conservation or preservation easements for the island or buildings. It was named in the list of “Top Places in Peril” by Greater Portland Landmarks (see article here). In 2013, top quality developer Michael Scarks purchased the island and subsequently sold the northern half to Vincent “Cap” Mona who immediately started a complete renovation and much-needed upgrading of all facilities and services.