explore our history


Early 1900’s Vision for Western Promenade:

Unlike the Olmsted design for the Eastern Promenade, the Western Promenade was laid out primarily as a ramble with a drive at the summit of the escarpment. No structural recreational activities were proposed in the design……. Bold Vision -1999

 “Bramhall’s Hill” where a delightful Promenade or Park can be made, running along the brow of the hill, from the Arsenal to the new Cemetery, affording a pleasant and picturesque view of the country for miles around, with all the variety of hills and dales, of plains and waters, villages and farm house, requisite to romantic scenery and a delightful landscape.  Eastern Argus “Breathing Places” – 1936 (Source: Bold Vision – 1999)

Key Developments in History:

1829 – City purchases land (10 acres) for the Western Cemetery

1830s – Streets are extended to the Western Promenade

1836 - City makes initial acquisition of land parcels from the Vaughan, Merrill and Little families and lays out a drive along the Western Promenade  

1841 – City purchases additional land (2 acres) for the Western Cemetery

1857 – J.B. Brown builds mansion on Bramhall Hill, improvements ($4,800) made to Western Promenade

1874 - Maine General Hospital opens on Western Promenade

1890 - John Calvin Stevens designs the gazebo

1905 – Olmsted Brothers prepare “City of Portland, Maine, General Plan for Park System” for Mayor James Phinney Baxter.

1908 – Statue of House Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed dedicated on promenade

1914 – Construction of the Edward Davies memorial gateway to Western Cemetery

1915 – J.B. Brown “Bramhall” estate is demolished and subdivided for development

1919 – Toboggan slide opens at Western Promenade

Collections of Maine Historical Society/MaineToday Media

1924 – Ski jump built by skier Birger Olsen for the 1924 winter carnival. A crowd of over 5,000 spectators gathered to witness this event. 

Collections of Maine Historical Society/MaineToday Media

1975 – Bill is signed into law to protect Western Promenade by giving City Council the right to dedicate them forever (City does so in 1981)

1989 – Western Promenade nominated to National Register for Historic Places