Redline map of Portland and South Portland, 1935

Contributed by Maine Historical Society


The Portland Directory Company produced an original map of Portland and South Portland in 1926. This copy was annotated in 1935 to illustrate diverse neighborhoods in Portland. Specifically Polish, Italian, Jewish, and Irish neighborhoods with indications of their "Grade of Security."

The legend regarding neighborhood ethnicity was dated November 15, 1935. A handwritten notation at the bottom of the map read: "W.C. McClelland - field Agt assisted and advised by Mr. William M. Pennell Pres. Maine Realty Mr. Thomas A. Sanders Secy. Federal L.B. Assoc. [Loan and Building Association] Mr. Raymond L. Hearn H.O.L.C. State Appraiser."

Banks and insurance casualty underwriters used redline maps as a tool for perpetuating inequity. After the Great Depression, the Federal Home Loan Bank through its subsidiary the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) made critical loans to struggling homeowners, but also initiated a policy of institutionalized racism known as "redlining." Redlining is the practice of denying or limiting financial services to certain neighborhoods based on racial or ethnic composition without regard to the residents’ qualifications or solvency. The term "redlining" refers to using a red line on a map to delineate the area where financial institutions would not invest.

The HOLC's printed guidelines directed assessors to rate neighborhoods based on housing stock, sales and rental rates, physical attributes, the occupations, income, ethnicity of citizens, and "any threat of infiltration of foreign-born, negro, or lower grade population." The HOLC used these ratings to create Residential Security Maps such as this one from 1935 detailing Portland and South Portland.

The the zone color codes are difficult to determine in this black and white copy, but the standard HOLC legend delineated areas as follows: The newest areas, or those desirable for lending purposes, were outlined in blue and known as "Type A" or "Best." These were typically affluent suburbs on the outskirts of cities. "Type B" neighborhoods were considered "Still Desirable," whereas older "Type C" neighborhoods were labeled "Definitely Declining" and outlined in yellow. "Type D" neighborhoods were outlined in red (thus the term redlining) and were considered "Hazardous" and the most risky for lending. On this map, notice the ethnic areas are shaded where Polish, Italian, Irish, and Jewish communities lived.

This black and white photocopy is the only known surviving copy of this map. Unfortunately the lower right corner was obscured during the copying process in 1935.

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About This Item

  • Title: Redline map of Portland and South Portland, 1935
  • Creation Date: 1926
  • Subject Date: 1935-11-15
  • Locations:
    • Portland, Cumberland County, ME
    • South Portland, Cumberland County, ME
  • Media: Ink on paper
  • Dimensions: 99 cm x 64 cm
  • Local Code: Map F 1221
  • Collection: Map of cities of Portland and South Portland
  • Object Type: Image

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For more information about this item, contact:

Maine Historical Society
485 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101
(207) 774-1822 x230

This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. No Permission is required to use the low-resolution watermarked image for educational use, or as allowed by the applicable copyright. For all other uses, permission is required.

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