History of Cushing’s Island in Casco Bay, Maine
Cushing Island, or Cushing’s Island, is a privately-owned island in Casco Bay in the U.S. state of Maine. Part of the city ofPortland, Maine, roughly 45 families live there seasonally.
In 1623-24 English explorer Christopher Levett built a blockhouse on the island, part of 6,000 acres (24 km2) granted him by the English King. Levett left behind a group of settlers to carry on after he returned to England. But the naval captain and adventurer never returned, and the fate of the men is unknown. After Levett’s occupation the island was known as Andrews Island. Levett’s early settlement earned him the sobriquet “the pioneer colonist in Casco Bay” from eminent Maine historian James Phinney Baxter.
After a host of owners, in September of 1734, Nathaniel Jones conveyed the island to Joshua Bangs. The island was then known as ‘Bangs Island’. The name ‘Bangs Island’ will be found on maps from the period. In the late 1750s Ezekiel Cushing obtained the island from Bangs. In 1760,Bangs regained the island. The island was later conveyed to Jedediah Preble, Joshua Bangs’ son-in-law after Bangs’ death. Simeon Skillings, a relation of Preble’s later lived on the island and purchased small parts of the land.Lemuel Cushing, a fourth cousin of Ezekiel Cushing purchased most of the island in 1859. Cushing then consolidated the holdings of the Preble’s and the Skilling’s, becoming the sole owner of the island. Born in Quebec, Canada to Massachusetts emigrants, Lemuel Cushing planned to turn the island into a summer resort and built the Ottawa House hotel. Lemuel’s son Francis Cushing formed the Cushing’s Island Company in 1883 and hiredFrederick Law Olmsted the same year to develop the island as a planned ‘summer colony’. Olmsted designed the landscape of the island, along with architect John Calvin Stevens.
View of Fort Levett and Ram’s Island ledge, Cushing Island, Maine, ca. 1904