Portland Oregon vs. Portland Maine

An illustration titled, “Which One Will Win?” depicts the two states that possess a Portland, battling for dominance.
Image by Jonas Boone and Nathan Wilk

The great city of Portland, Maine was founded on July 4, 1786, and approximately 65 years later came its West Coast counterpart, Portland, Oregon. Needless to say, the settlers seemed to be lacking in creative names for their newly claimed lands, as evidenced by the existence of several places simply called, “[Insert State Name Here] City.” However, the fact that there are just two major Portlands in all of the country’s states and territories warrants some healthy comparison and competition. It’s Portland v. Portland: which city is better?

At first glance, it would be hard not to give precedence to the bigger city. As of 2016, Portland, Ore. boasts a population of 624,530, growing steadily with every passing year. This far outnumbers the other Portland, which sports only a population 66,933 as of 2016. Hip hip hurray! Portland, Ore. must be the better city, because more people want to live there…right? But surely Portland, Maine deserves some credit for being the original, the first, the groundbreaking Portland…right? Perhaps there are other factors that need to be considered when judging the two.

Adrian Lyne (11),  a Portland, Ore. local, was born in Maine and visits the state at least once every year. “I’ve been to Portland, Maine at least 20 times,” he says, calling the state by what many colloquially refer to it as, “Vacationland.” He says that “hordes of people go into the state during the summer to enjoy the recreational activities it offers.” Many of these involve taking in the gifts of the rich wilderness surrounding and intertwining with the city, such as lobster, a famous delicacy natural product of the state. In the city itself, you can find spatterings of food carts and restaurants offering the buttery crustacean treats in larger number than most if not all of the country.

Rather than advertising it as a city, Lyne calls it “one of the best representations of a small town in Maine that there is to offer.” The city even has its own waterfront to rival Portland, Oregon’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park, but Portland, Maine has the added benefit of actually being a city by the sea. Still, Lyne would turn his favor to his home of Portland, Ore., preferring its wealth of activities and the atmosphere a major city provides. “I prefer Portland, Ore. for the city, but Maine for the state…Portland, Maine definitely feels more ‘home-y’, simply because it is smaller, and has that kind of presence when you’re there, but Portland, OR. has more to offer in the long run.”

There is much to be said for the respective qualities of both beautiful cities, and perhaps at the end of the day they simply need to be respected as equal cities, tourism rivals, and same name partners until the nation dissolves, the sun collapses, and they’ll both eventually be slightly different collections of dust floating through space about to be sucked into a black hole. History, culture, and natural sights and sounds gone in an instant. But until then, Lyne says, “Portland, Maine has lots of small shops for tourists and locals alike, and has quite a few good restaurants and coffee shops that are worth your while.” So enjoy the small town or the big city life while the world is still here! And don’t bother trying to judge two places against each other arbitrarily because they have the same name. Sometimes in the battle of Portland v. Portland, everybody wins.

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