Woodfords Corner: A History
1799 - 1960s
Woodford Corner has been an area in several towns. It was part of the town of Falmouth until 1814 when it became part of the town of Westbrook, then known as Saccarappa. In 1871 the area seceded and became the Town of Deering, named for James Deering, who owned a large farm where USM is now located. The City of Deering was incorporated in 1892 and annexed by the City of Portland a few years later in 1899.
Woodfords Corner developed along a major travel route from the Portland peninsula along Deering Avenue and Ocean Avenue in the 18 th century. In 1799 Chauncey Woodford, a Connecticut merchant settled near the corner that would bear his family’s name. His two brothers also relocated to the area. His brother Ebenezer and his wife Mary lived on the northeast corner of what is now Woodfords Street and Forest Avenue. In 1823, Ebenezer started a comb manufacturing business using cattle horns and tortoiseshells. The factory closed in 1849.
The first railroad through Woodfords Corner was the Kennebec and Portland Railroad in 1847. It crossed Forest Avenue south of Revere Street and traveled behind the block occupied by Odd Fellows Hall. Eventually part of the Boston and Maine RR, the line through Woodfords Corner became redundant and was abandoned in 1911.
Trolleys along Forest Avenue enabled residential development in Deering, particularly around Woodfords Corner by providing an easy commuting option to the city center. In 1864 the Portland and Forest Avenue Railroad Company began a horse drawn trolley line from downtown Portland out Forest Avenue, Pleasant Avenue, and Stevens Avenue to Morrill’s Corner. In 1891 the trolley system to Morrill’s was electrified. Along with the Great Fire of 1866 that displaced many residents on the peninsula, the trolley facilitated rapid residential subdivision of Deering’s the farms and estates in the second half of the 19th century.
Woodfords Corner, as an important center in Deering, had many of the civic and institutional buildings associated with that role. A large neighborhood school was located at the corner of Irving Street and Ocean Avenue. The neighborhood fire station, at first located on Woodford Street, moved to the large brick station built at the corner of Deering Avenue and Revere Street in 1907. Social clubs formed, building lodges and halls for their organizations including the Odd Fellows Block, Woodfords Club, and the Rocky Hill Lodge at 156 Woodfords Street. In addition, the area was home to numerous small businesses that served the needs of local residents.
In the 20th century the arrival of the automobile had a profound impact on Woodfords Corner. New building types emerged for the sale, repair and fueling of automobiles. The Darling-Kidder Automobile Dealership at 626 Forest Avenue was built in 1917. Across the street, Towle’s Garage at 625-631 Forest Avenue was built in 1918. In the middle of the 20 th century there were four gas stations at Woodford’s Corner, including the gas station now used as a car dealership at the corner of Revere Street and Forest Avenue. After World War II, suburban development in neighboring towns led to increasing traffic along Forest Avenue and Woodfords Corner began to lose small its neighborhood businesses as shoppers favored larger stores at nearby shopping centers in Portland and Westbrook.
Submitted by Julie Larry of Greater Portland Landmarks.