Portland was founded in 1811 by General William Lytle, who also founded Cincinnati, Ohio. Portland was a wealthy rival to Louisville because of its location downstream from the Falls of the Ohio. Steamboats had to unload their cargo in Louisville and take it by wagon to Portland. After the Louisville Canal was built in 1830, however, Portland began to decline.
West Louisville was itself a desirable address before the 1937 flood and desegregation led to white flight. Many blue-collar white families that couldn’t move away ended up in Portland. The area is 72 percent Caucasian and 24 percent African American. For many years, Portland tried to distance itself from the predominantly African American neighborhoods farther west. But that is changing.
Portland Now President Danny McDole says his neighborhood must join forces with other West Louisville communities to battle mutual problems like crime, the abundance of liquor stores in the area and vacant homes. Portland Now would also like to see the K&I railroad bridge transformed into a pedestrian bridge similar to the Big 4, so West Louisville residents can walk across the river to New Albany. The project would need the votes of council members from other communities.
“Anyone who says Portland is not the West End is stupid,” McDole attests. “We can’t go it alone. There are projects that will benefit the whole area and we need to lobby for them as a group.”
Portland Now has joined a new umbrella organization called the West Louisville Dream Team to achieve mutual goals. McDole is excited about people like Holland and the Rhemas seeing the potential in West Louisville. “Portland has plenty of stock if we can get it away from the banks,” he says. “We need people. I don’t know how all of this interest in Portland got started, but I’m happy it is happening.”
The Rhemas are already talking to the city about purchasing five or six lots next to the current properties they own. If the gallery and trauma center are successful, they hope to build other businesses to serve their clients. But they might have some competition.
“Every day since I’ve been working there, I get someone knocking on the door, asking if they can buy the property,” Dan says. “Then others want to know when The HUB is going to open back up again. There is a lot of interest in buying in Portland right now. It’s an exciting place to be.”