Congress Street (Portland, Maine)

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Congress Square Park at the intersection of Free Street, High Street and Congress Street.
Front of the First Parish Church, located at 425 Congress Street.

Congress Street is the main street in Portland, Maine. Congress stretches from Portland's southwestern border with South Portland through a number of neighborhoods before ending overlooking the Eastern Promenade on Munjoy Hill. In March 2009, the Portland City Council designated much of the inner portion of Congress Street a historic district.[1][2]

History[edit]

When what is now Portland was founded by British colonialists in the early 18th century, the population settled primarily on the waterfront near what is now India St. Congress was laid out and originally known as Back Street and later Queen Street. The first prominent structures on the street were the First Parish Meeting House, built in 1740 and replaced to the present structure in the 1820s as well as the hay scales in Market Square, later known as Monument Square. From the early settlement of Portland until the American Revolutionary War period, Back Street was considered the far edge of the town. It took the name of Congress Street beginning in 1823.[3]

In 1921, the Etz Chaim Synagogue was built on the eastern end of Congress Street approaching Munjoy Hill. As of 2011, it was the only immigrant-era synagogue still functioning in Maine.

A study in 2011 sought to change a number of features on the street, including decreasing the number of stoplights and ending left hand turns off of the street. Greater Portland planners also called the street the most congested artery in the region.[4]

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