Long Island was first used by Native Americans to harvest shellfish and then, beginning in the early 1600s, by immigrants who established fishing stations, harvested lumber, and brought livestock from the mainland to graze. Ownership of the island passed through a series of land investors until it was sold to Col. Ezekiel Cushing in 1732. After his death in 1765 he willed the island to his nine children. Soon after, other settlers came, setting up farms and fishing. At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century the island was a very popular summer vacation spot, leading to the building of three summer hotels and several boarding houses. During WW II, the US Navy established a refueling annex for the North Atlantic Fleet and a small seaplane base. While the last hotel was taken down in the early 1950s, the island remains a popular summer vacation spot. It has a year-round population of about 230 year-round residents. An elementary school through grade five, a library and art gallery, two churches, a small grocery store, an active Fire Department, a seasonal gift shop, and a seasonal ice cream and sandwich shop service the island residents and visitors.
The Era of the Grand Hotels
The hotels and inns on the island were active from the late 1800’s until the 1930’s. The Granite Springs Hotel, located at Ponce’s Landing, burned in 1914 and was not rebuilt. The Dirigo House on Island Avenue was active until the 1930’s. The Casco Bay House was the last remaining hotel in the early 1950’s when it was demolished.
Clambakes and Other Social Events
Clambakes have always been very popular with summer visitors. During the era of the grand hotels, the Casco Bay House operated the Clambake Pavilion, which could serve hundreds of meals at a time. Today the former VFW Hall (built by VFW Post 9605), built on the site of the Clambake Pavilion, provides a spot for dances, dinners, and other social gatherings.
Education for the island children has always been a priority on the island. There have been several iterations of smalls schools on the island over the years. During WW II the Navy built a new school building that is still in use today. The building now houses not only grades K-5, but a Learning Center consisting of a very active Library and Art Gallery, as well as a multi-purpose room used for community events.
In the early 1900’s up until 1914 when a devastating fire destroyed much of the island’s business district, there were numerous businesses servicing the island. Today on the island there is one grocery store, an ice-cream parlor/sandwich shop, and a gift shop. The three photos below are all centered around Ponce’s Landing. The Granite Springs Hotel can be seen on the left side of the first photo.
PHOTO CREDITS: The Granite Springs Hotel: Carl Silveri; The Dirigo House: Lorinda Valls; The Casco Bay House: Carl Silveri; The Clambake Pavilion: Phyllis Greene; The former VFW Hall: Ruth Peterson; The VFW Hall c 2008: James Coobrith; The East End School: Barbara Libby; The West End School (Ivy Hall): Phyllis Greene; The Ivy Hall Gift Shop: Karen Rea; The East End School Building Today: Karen Rea; The Long Island School: Kim Chase; The Learning Center and School 2018: Staff Photo; Down Front Early 1900’s: Beth Marchak; Down front c 1993: Karen Rea; Down front 2018: Karen Rea