In the early 1800s, portagers between the Rideau and the Gananoque Rivers called this place "The Landing". Settlers coming north from Brockville arrived here and were then transported by barge to Rideau (Oliver's) Ferry whence they travelled on to Perth. With the completion of the Rideau Canal, barge and boat traffic followed the North Shore of the Big Rideau and "The Landing", having no significant source of waterpower was relegated to "Old Landing". However, the community survived among its pioneer farms. When the post office opened in 1833, the name Portland was chosen after William Henry Cavendish Bentinch, Duke of Portland, a prominent Briton of the day.
The fortunes of Portland have been closely tied to its location on the Rideau. From the middle years of the 19th century it served as a solid commercial and transshipment centre with various businesses such as hotels, mills, furniture factories,
Emmanuel Anglican Church photo by: Ken Watson
wagon and boat shops, powered by steam and electricity. The rival railway and roadways provided further access to the Big Rideau and since the turn of the century, Portland has continued as a progressive centre serving the boaters and cottagers who have come to treasure the many islands and bays of the Big Rideau.
Several fine buildings mark Portland's evolution. The Gallagher Bank Building was erected in 1903. Along with the John Polk Store erected in 1891 and the Harmon Toffey House (1892), they show the prosperity of this community at the turn of the century. Throughout the village, you will find a number of other 19th century commercial buildings, private homes and fine public buildings such as Emmanuel Anglican Church erected in 1861. (See the Heritage Tour of Portland).
Outside of Portland, on Highway 15, on the Big Rideau Lake Road and on the Freeland Road, you will pass several fine 19th century homes including the Thomas Graham house (early 1870s) (Bastard Ward, Lot 25, Con 2); the Henry Ferris Bolton House (1854)(Bastard Ward, Lot 22. Con 2), and the Horace Sheldon House (1860s) (Bastard Ward, Lot 23, Con 1). Several early cottages illustrate some of the grand lakeside architecture at the turn of the century: the Marie de Gez Cottage off Cedar Cove Road built circa 1904 (Bastard Ward, Lot 21, Con 1 ), the Gould "Wedding Cake" cottage built in the 1890s (South Burgess, Lot 13, Con 2), and Edgemere and Grindstone Island on Murphy Bay .