Walking Through Time…

Last Thursday (7/16/09) a group from Riverton Park walked over to the old Trolley Park for a historic walking tour with Mark Shapp, a member of the Friends of Riverton Trolley Park organization.


Mark had lots of visual aids to show us how the park has changed drastically in the past 100+ years.


After walking around and finding the subtle reminders of the trolley and amusement parks, we stopped for a snack and the kids answered some writing prompts to help them look closely at their surroundings in the woody park!

After all the rain we’ve had, all I can say is HOLY MOSQUITOES! Despite being eaten alive, everyone had high spirits and seemed excited to learn about the park from Mark. 

Writing examples and pictures to follow…




Last Thursday (7/9/09) a small group gathered at the Riverton Park Education Center to work on the Riverton Park Project. 

Because the group was so small, we altered our plan to visit the park, and instead read some books that explored how the world was different in the United States over 100 years ago, when Riverton Park was a trolley/amusement park. 

We explored both fiction and nonfiction books borrowed from the Portland Public Library, these are some of the titles we looked at:

51CD97Q0W0L._SL500_AA240_Shes Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head

Mirandy%20and%20Brother%20Wind    9780140505399

OxcartMan      american-story-715897

With the small group, we talked about the similarities and differences between Maine’s popular amusement park today FunTown USA and the amusement park at Riverton Park almost 100 years ago.  We then all illustrated our favorite amusement park rides (and invented a few too!) 

Stay tuned for project updates (next week Mark Shapp will be taking kids on an historic walking tour of the park!) 


“Looking” at History

This past Wednesday (7/1/09) a group of 10+ kids gathered at a community center in Riverton Park and took part in the Riverton Park Project.  Using the PHA  digital projector and the MHS MacBook we projected images from the Maine Memory Network for a “looking” activity which prompted kids to notice… 

  • How Portland looked different in the past:


  • How life/school was different for kids in the past: 


  • How people rode on trolleys instead of busses:


This “looking” activity then led to a writing activity: each kid got a printed copy of one of the photographs we had looked at and spent 20 minutes free-writing about what they saw in the photograph and how what they saw compares to life today. 

Photo 11

Photo 18

Photo 19

The writing activity was followed by a screening of several Charlie Chaplin movie-shorts and snacks provided by Rachel. 

Stay tuned for a recap of our next meeting and to read some stories/writing by the kids! 


Movies at Riverton Park

From 1923-1929 Riverton Park was known as an amusement park/automobile destination. Instead of the live entertainment of the trolley park days (like acrobats, theater performances, and counting horses) the amusement park screened motion pictures, or movies

Motion pictures were a new source of entertainment: the first movie was made by Louis Le Prince in 1888… and it was only 2 seconds:

The movies shown at Riverton Park were silent movies, featuring movie stars like Mary Pickford. This is Mary Pickford as Cinderella in 1914:

and Charlie Chaplin:

To watch more silent movies online check out the Silent Movie Multiplex.

In the late 1920s silent movies were replaced with talkies as the technology had been developed to synch up voices with the moving film… it’s amazing to think about how far the technology to make movies has come since then!

Clang! Ding! Buzz!

Published in: on June 25, 2009 at 8:29 pm  Comments (1)  
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Trolley Parks!

While the rain continued outside yesterday afternoon, inside the Riverton Community Center a group of Portland Rec seniors, community members, and 4 students from Riverton Park gathered to learn more about Riverton Trolley Park

The park had two lives: first from 1896-1920 as a trolley park, then from 1923-1929 as an amusement park and automobile destination.

When it opened on June 21, 1896 the Riverton Trolley Park was flooded with 10,000 people seeking respite and rustication from the bustle of city life. Paying 5 cents for the trolley ride from Monument Square also afforded a ticket to the theater… where you could see a counting horse, Japanese trapeze artists, or a vaudeville show!

While at the park you could also rent a bicycle or canoe (and drift down the beautiful Presumpscot River), indulge in a good book or a “shore dinner” at the casino, or explore the many trails with wildlife and flowers abounding!

Riverton Trolley Park was the most popular of the trolley parks in the Greater Portland Area. Below are some images of other trolley parks found throughout the state during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Cape Cottage Park in Cape Elizabeth:
Cape Cottage Park

The casino, built in 1889 for the Portland and Cape Elizabeth Railway, had a 500-seat theater along with a cafe and a dance hall.

From 1916-1917, it was used by U.S. troops stationed in Cape Elizabeth. After the war, under new management, the restaurant and a dance pavilion. It was sold by the Cumberland County Power and Light Company in 1922.
[Text and images from Maine Memory Network]


Lake Grove Park in Auburn:

Lake Grove, a trolley park built by the Lewiston and Auburn Horse Railroad Company. Lake Grove was in East Auburn and opened in 1883 and closed in 1927.
[Text and images from Maine Memory Network]

lake grove

Oakland Park in Rockland:

Central Maine Power Company purchased the Rockland, Thomaston, and Camden Street Railroad and constructed the first amusement park in the area, known as Oakland Park in 1920.
[Text and image from Maine Memory Network]

Merrymeeting Park in Brunswick:

Merrymeeting opened in 1898 by the trolley company as a destination for entertainment. It was located on Merrymeeting Bay, at the end of the trolley tracks. The Park offered a variety of entertainment from a zoo, to food and picnics, to theater and even a casino. It closed in 1906.
[Text and images from Maine Memory Network]


Check out more images and find more information at the Maine Memory Network

Published in: on June 23, 2009 at 2:40 pm  Comments (1)  
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Open House to Share Memorabilia!

Denise Macaronas of Portland Rec is hosting an Open House to share memorabilia from Riverton Trolley Park:

Monday, June 22nd at the Riverton Community Center and Riverton Branch Library from 3:00-6:00pm.

A guided historic tour of the Riverton Trolley Park will follow, but this is on a space-available basis.

This event also represents the kick-off of the Riverton Park Summer Project, so stay tuned for updates and progress reports on this exciting project!

Published in: on June 22, 2009 at 5:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Project Starts!

The Riverton Park Project is headed up by AmeriCorps Service Leaders Rachel (Study Center Coordinator at Portland Housing Authority’s Riverton Park Community) and Marieke  (Education Coordinator at the Maine Historical Society)… who spent the morning exploring resources on Riverton Trolley Park, the Presumpscot River, and Trolleys in Maine at the Maine Historical Society Research Library* (with much help from Bill Barry)! 

The project is still being developed, but the goal is to provide a fun, educational experience for the kids of Portland Housing Authority’s Riverton Park Community. It’ll be an exploration of the park’s past, a close look at how it’s used today, and creative projections on how it may be used in the future… through creative writing, art, and connecting with the community. 

The fun all starts June 22nd with the Portland Rec’s “Open House” to share memorabilia from Riverton Trolley Park. This event is free and open to the public. Monday, June 22nd from 3:00-5:30pm. FMI call 766-2970 or check out Portland Recreation’s Spring-Summer Programs Guide. Come join us!

*Maine Historical Society’s Library has recently undergone major renovations… join us for the grand reopening:

Dedication of the Alida Carroll and John Marshall Brown Library
Grand Opening Celebration
Saturday, June 27, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm

Under the tent adjacent to the Brown Library
Key note speaker Barry Mills, President, Bowdoin College, with Alan S. Taylor, Historian, University of CA; Karen Baldacci, First Lady of Maine; and Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., State Historian. 
12:00 noon – 2:00 pm                       

Campus Tours and Open House throughout the day:
Wadsworth-Longfellow House ~ Longfellow Garden ~ Brown Library ~ MHS Museum Exhibition
10:00 – 4:30      

All events are FREE and open to the public

Published in: on June 3, 2009 at 9:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Before it was a park…

Before Riverton Park as we know it today, before the amusement park of the 1920s, before the Trolley Park of the late 1890s… there was a canning factory! The world’s largest canning factory! 

16948The Deering factory was built by J. Winslow Jones in 1870 to process “Winslow’s World Renowned Green Corn.” It was located on the bank of the Presumscot River, where Riverton Park is today. The factory also canned meat and other veggies!

(Image from Maine Memory Network)

Published in: on May 29, 2009 at 8:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Trolleys in Portland


“The first two-horse double-end car started on the Spring Street line in 1863….The Spring Street line’s operated from Clark Street along Spring thence to Congress, down Middle Street and to the Foot of India Street […] the Congress Street line that operated from Atlantic to Vaughan Street, in 1864 and the last one, the Saco and Old Orchard line in 1901-1902.  The Deering line was electrified in 1891 and the city lines changed to electricity in 1895” –Portland Evening Express, 1941


Published in: on May 15, 2009 at 8:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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