A Tour of Cushings Island, Maine

Nursery News:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

.Cushings Island Maine 8-5-2014 4-53-38 PMA trip to Cushings Island in Casco Bay, Maine, revealed scenic vistas, elegant architecture, and historic sites.

I am a member of Oceanside Conservation Trust, a land trust based in Portland, Maine, dedicated to preserving land on the islands in Casco Bay.  Every August, Oceanside hosts its annual meeting on one of the islands on which it holds conservation easements.  This year members visited Cushings Island, a privately owned island that is part of the City of Portland.  This was a rare opportunity to tour this normally “gated” (as I overheard one resident call it) island with its unique history and architecture.


Cushings Island Maine 8-5-2014 4-56-49 PMThis ‘triangular’ look is very common in John Calvin Stevens Shingle Style architecture.

Cushings Island was purchased in the 1750s by Ezekiel Cushing.  In the 1880s, his descendant Francis Cushing hired the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to develop the island as a planned summer colony in conjunction with John Calvin Stevens.  Stevens, an architect based in Portland, Maine, became famous for his innovative Shingle Style architecture.  He designed over 1,000 buildings in the state during his long career.  Many of the 45 homes on Cushings Island were created by Stevens in the late 19th century, and they are well preserved today:


Cushings Island Maine 8-5-2014 1-41-51 PM


Cushings Island Maine 8-5-2014 4-08-56 PM.

Cushings Island Maine 8-5-2014 4-11-18 PM


Cushings Island Maine 8-5-2014 5-00-06 PM


Cushings Island Maine 8-5-2014 4-56-07 PM.

Cushings Island is also a unique historical site as it was fortified during the Spanish-American War in 1898 and then occupied again during World War II when part of the Atlantic Fleet was based in Casco Bay.  We were able to see the fortifications during our tour:

Cushings Island Maine 8-5-2014 2-40-19 PMGun emplacements from the Spanish-American War in 1898 are overgrown with vegetation.


Cushings Island Maine 8-5-2014 2-51-30 PMThe fortifications on Cushings Island were augmented during World War II.


Cushings Island Maine 8-5-2014 2-46-34 PMWorld War II observation tower.


Cushings IslandOfficers’ quarters from WWII are now summer homes.


Cushings Island.

Cushings Island is also very beautiful in a quintessential Maine way:

Cushings Island Maine 8-5-2014 1-39-13 PM.

Cushings Island Maine 8-5-2014 3-00-50 PM.

Cushings Island Maine 8-5-2014 4-54-30 PM.

Cushings Island Maine 8-5-2014 3-10-12 PM.

It was a privilege to visit this part of our cultural heritage, and I am glad I can share it with you.


P.S.  I am excited to report that the stat counter for Carolyn’s Shade Gardens blog has now recorded over 1,000,000 views.  Thank you to all my readers all over the world!

Nursery Happenings: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is closed for the summer and will reopen in September.  You can sign up to receive notification emails by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

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Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

18 Responses to “A Tour of Cushings Island, Maine”

  1. Leslie Bass Says:

    Carolyn, many thanks for this glimpse of an otherwise private corner of our country, its history and architectural heritage.
    Have been in Portland, ME, but otherwise would never know of Cushings Island.

  2. You really did have a treat. There is some beautiful architecture there. The views are spectacular too and I bet every home was designed to maximize them.

  3. Congratulations on passing the one million mark! It’s always nice to see interesting content and great pictures recognized!
    In my younger days we used to take ferry rides out to the islands to explore the abandoned bunkers. The exploring was fun but how could it not be with all the fantastic scenery!

    • Thanks Frank, you are so nice to say that. There are abandoned forts, towers, bunkers, etc., on many of the islands in Casco Bay. Fort Gorges is amazing, and Jewells Island is a state park covered with evidence of WWII. You need to have your own boat to get to both of those though. Carolyn

  4. Clara Berger Says:

    Congrats on the 1,000,000 views, Carolyn. Quite an achievement!

  5. Congrats on the million views…what a treat to visit the island…gorgeous homes, lots of history and recent history too…

  6. It looks like a fantastic place, and congratulations on 1,000,000.

  7. Congratulations on making the million mark! Thanks for the look at Cushings Island and for the historical perspective. When I read that it was occupied by the military in WWII, my immediate thought was that I am glad there was no fighting there. It would have been tragic to lose the architecture or to spoil the natural beauty.

    Also, thanks for your comment on my last post. Regarding the wax candles, they would certainly melt if they were in the sun. I found that out the hard way when I put a wax candle in a lantern on my patio. What a mess! My iron chandelier is in the shade, and that makes a big difference.

  8. Anne Canby Says:

    Carolyn – Will you have any Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’ for sale this fall?

    Lovely photos from ME.

    Thanks, Anne

  9. I didn’t even know this island existed, much less it’s fascinating history. Thanks for the tour, the history lesson, and the beautiful photos.

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