Peaks Island

Coordinates: 43°39′25″N 70°11′46″W / 43.65694°N 70.19611°W / 43.65694; -70.19611
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Peaks Island
Photo of ferry landing and Welch Street on Peaks Island, Maine
LocationCasco Bay, Maine
Coordinates43°39′25″N 70°11′46″W / 43.65694°N 70.19611°W / 43.65694; -70.19611
Adjacent toGulf of Maine
Area720 acres (290 ha)[1]
Population927 (2011-2015)[2]
Vintage postcard depicting Gem Theater, boardwalk, and the Peaks Island House hotel on Peaks Island, Maine

Peaks Island is the most populous island in Casco Bay, Maine. It is part of the city of Portland and is approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) from downtown. The island is served by Casco Bay Lines and is home to its own elementary school, library, and police station. It is the only island in Casco Bay that allows cars throughout the island due to its size.

While small, the island hosts a variety of businesses including an ice cream parlor, restaurant, grocery store, kayak rentals, golf cart rentals, art galleries, the Fifth Maine Regiment Museum[3] and the Umbrella Cover Museum, among others.[4]

The island was originally known as Pond Island. It became Michael's Island, after Michael Mitton was gifted the island on a sixty-year lease by his father-in-law, George Cleeve. It was subsequently named Munjoy's Island (for George Munjoy) and Palmer's Island (for Munjoy's son-in-law, John Palmer).[5][6]

Notable visitors and places[edit]

Battery Steele housed two 16-inch (406 mm) guns

George M. Cohan tried his productions out at the island's Gem Theater before taking them to Broadway.[7] Jean Stapleton's first professional appearance in the summer of 1941 was in a production at Greenwood Garden Playhouse.[8] Martin Landau also made his professional stage debut in a 1951 production of "Detective Story" at Greenwood Garden where for several seasons he was a resident cast member.[9]

The Gem Theater was destroyed by fire on September 7, 1934.[10] In the fire of 1936, the Union House Hotel also burned down—as well as a row of stores on the north side of Island Ave. including Augustus Carlson's Restaurant, Brackett's Grocery, Small's Bakery, John Cox's gift shop, and eight cottages.[11]

During World War II, the island was home to a large military defense installation, including the largest structure, Battery Steele, which housed two 16-inch (406-mm) guns. When Battery Steele's guns were first tested, windows on the opposite side of the island shattered.[12]


The island had an estimated population of 858 in 2017;[13] however, the population of residents increases in the summer by an estimated 2,000–4,000.[14]

Secession efforts[edit]

There have been at least six significant movements for Peaks to secede from the city of Portland: in 1883, 1922, 1948, 1955, 1992, and another effort in the period 2004 to 2011.[15] The most recent effort grew out of a revaluation of all properties in the municipality, when average property taxes on Peaks Island increased by over 200 percent.[16] Shortly thereafter, a group of island residents organized a committee to investigate seceding from Portland and forming a separate town.[17] A successful petition drive put the issue to an island-wide vote on June 13, 2006.[18] Of a total of 683 votes, over 57 percent were in favor of secession.[19][20]

The Portland City Council unanimously opposed secession.[21] The council and the secession group, after arguing over whether to hold talks in public or private, failed to negotiate terms.[22][23] In February 2007 the secession group obtained sponsorship for legislation in the Maine State Legislature to incorporate the Town of Peaks Island, subject to a successful referendum.[24][25][26] After vigorous debate, the bill was narrowly tabled, "dead" in committee as of May 14, 2007.[27]

As a result of the secession fight and the urging of state legislators, the Portland City Council agreed to create a seven-member Peaks Island Council for direct liaison.[28] But in 2010 most members of the Peaks Island Council resigned, expressing frustration about Portland's unwillingness to work with them.[29] With only write-in candidates taking the vacant seats the Council ceased to fulfill its function.[30] Ongoing discussions between the Council's former Chair and city officials about establishing some degree of autonomy, such as creating a village corporation within the city, proved unproductive.[31]

As a result of a change in the Maine legislature from Democratic to Republican control the secession effort regained momentum, with a new bill introduced in 2011 providing for a January 2012 island-wide vote on secession.[32] However, hearings showed an apparent lack of consensus among the islanders.[33] The State and Local Government Committee rejected the bill, on the ground that the secession leaders had not followed the legal process: they would need to start over with signature gathering and another referendum.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Peak Island Land Preserve".
  2. ^ Error: Unable to display the reference properly. See the documentation for details.
  3. ^ Fifth Maine Regiment Museum
  4. ^ "Peaks Island Businesses and Services". Peaks Island Organizations. Fifth Maine Regiment Museum. 2013-05-28. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  5. ^ The Origins of the Street Names of the City of Portland, Maine as of 1995 – Norm and Althea Green, Portland Public Library (1995)
  6. ^ History of Peaks and House Islands – Nathan Goold (1897), p. 14
  7. ^ "The Rise and Fall of Tourism on Peaks Island, Maine | Digital Atlas of New England Landscapes". Retrieved 2019-12-20.
  8. ^ "Jean Stapleton". The Official Masterworks Broadway Site. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
  9. ^ Gates, Anita (2017-07-16). "Martin Landau, Actor Who Won an Oscar for 'Ed Wood,' Dies at 89". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
  10. ^ "Gem Theater, Peaks Island, ca. 1900". Maine Memory Network. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
  11. ^ Macisaac, Steven J. (Nov 1990). "An Overview of the Seventy-Eight Year History of the Trefethen Evergreen Improvement Association, Peaks Island, Maine". Local Printed Material. 5.
  12. ^ The Seductions of Fall , The New York Times, 2004-09-10. Accessed 2009-02-21.
  13. ^ Bureau, U. S. Census. "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
  14. ^ "Peaks Island". [Island Institute]. Retrieved 2014-01-23.
  15. ^ MzcIsaac, Erico (February 26, 2011). "Secession Talk on Peaks Island is Nothing New". Heritage in Maine. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  16. ^ Home is Where the Heartburn Is Archived 2004-12-21 at the Wayback Machine , Portland Press Herald, 2004-04-07. Accessed 2009-05-31.
  17. ^ Website of Peaks Island Independence Committee (IIC) Archived 2009-03-10 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 2009-05-31.
  18. ^ Minutes of the Portland City Council, April 19, 2006, accessed 2009-05-31.
  19. ^ Peaks Votes to Secede Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine, The Bollard, 2006-06-13. Accessed 2009-05-31.
  20. ^ "Peaks Independence committee takes on a new role after island secession vote", Island Times, July 2006.
  21. ^ Minutes of the Portland City Council, June 19, 2006, accessed 2009-05-31.
  22. ^ "Peaks secession negotiations at a stalemate", Island Times, August 2006.
  23. ^ Secession Meeting Turns Nasty, WMTW, 2006-07-21. Accessed 2009-05-31.
  24. ^ Peaks Island's future a "crapshoot" Archived 2011-01-07 at the Wayback Machine , The Bollard, 2007-02-11. Accessed 2009-02-24.
  25. ^ Bill would authorize Peaks vote[permanent dead link] , Portland Press Herald, 2007-04-25. Accessed 2009-05-31.
  26. ^ An Act To Authorize Peaks Island, House Island, Pumpkin Knob and Catnip Island To Secede from the City of Portland, accessed 2009-05-31.
  27. ^ Tyler, David, Peaks Secession Movement Encounters Choppy Water at the Legislature Working Waterfront, June, 2007.
  28. ^ Minutes of the Portland City Council, Special Meeting, May 21, 2007, accessed 2009-05-31.
  29. ^ Billings, Randy,Legislative Hearing slated for Peaks Island Secession Bill The Forecaster, April 5, 2011
  30. ^ Bucklin, Kate, Peaks Island Officially Has No Councillors The Forecaster, Nov. 02, 2010,
  31. ^ Murphy, Edward, Peaks' bid for more autonomy met cooly[sic] Portland Press Herald, Sept 9, 2010.
  32. ^ Murphy, Edward, Peaks Secession Bill Timeline Stirs Debate, Portland Press Herald 7 March 2011.
  33. ^ Billings, Randy (2011-02-22). "Peaks Island residents pack anti-secession meeting". News. The Forecaster. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  34. ^ Bell, Tom, Legislative Panel rejects Peaks Island Secession Portland Press Herald, April 14, 2011
  • Notable Items section: Clough, Leon S., editor; Peaks Island 1776–1976 Bicentennial Directory

External links[edit]