The Deering Estate Barn, one of two structures that made up the Deering Estate, was located on what is now the University of Southern Maine at Portland, Maine campus. The Deering Estate had a storied history leading back to early colonial days. After the land was purchased by prominent Portland businessman James Deering in 1802, it became a luxurious country estate. The barn was modified by Portland Community College after they acquired the property in 1947. The community college later became part of the University of Southern Main campus which led to the removal of many of the temporary buildings that had been erected by the community college. The barn had been converted into a student center and was a popular center of campus activity. However, it was demolished in 1969 despite its historic significance and despite the efforts by preservationists and protests by students and community members.
The land that now makes up the campus of the University of
Southern Maine had been partitioned for settlement originally in 1637. Given to George Cleeves by Sir Ferdinando
Gorges, a number of habitations and settlements were established on the wide
stretch of land over the course of the mid-1600s. In 1676, during conflicts with natives, many
of the colonists were captured, killed, or displaced. The landholder during that time was Anthony
Brackett, who had received the land from George Cleeves. The Brackets managed to escape the attacks,
move to a different segment of the land, and reestablish a farm nearby.
Almost a decade later, the very first battle of the “Second
Indian War of 1689-1697” began in the Brackett farm orchard. Throughout the course of the war, nearly
every settler in the area was displaced.
The farm would not be reclaimed until 1715 when the son of Anthony
Brackett, Zachariah Brackett, set out to reclaim the land, constructing a new
farm which would come to be known as Back Cove Farm.
In 1802, Back Cove Farm came into the hands of James
Deering, a prominent and well-respected merchant in the Portland area whose
family’s holdings have been a major historical influence on the City of
Portland. Deering overhauled the farm,
hiring famed architect Alexander Parris, who designed Boston’s iconic Quincy
Market, to design a mansion and luxury carriage house for the property. The mansion would, in the coming years, host
many celebrities of the time who came to visit the state. Jefferson Davis, Daniel Webster, and Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow were noted visitors of the Deering property.
In 1871, following a large displacement of citizens from Portland
after the 1866 Great Fire of Portland, the town lines around the Portland area
were redrawn. The Deering Estate had
once belonged to the town of Falmouth, but instead was redrawn to be a part of
a new town, named Deering. A portion of
the farmland nearest to the city limits of Portland was sold to the city in
1879 to become Deering Oaks Park, which remains a public park of great local
repute to this day. In 1899, Portland
officially annexed the town of Deering which had been absorbed by the great
influx of population in the city.
By 1946, the Deering Estate had become little more than 18
acres of land. The mansion was in poor
condition and was dismantled after Portland Junior College leaders Dean Luther
I. Bonney and Board of Trustees Chairman Raymond S. Oaks purchased the last of
the Deering Estate. The barn, which was
once the fine carriage house of the Deering Family, was still in good enough
condition to be employed by the school and served as a number of facilities for
the enrichment of the students over the course of decades. The barn was finally disassembled in 1988,
though the school maintains significant documentation of its location and its
importance to the school.