Perhaps not really lost, but never a city....maybe "aborted city of Portland"...
Robin Garr, host of the LouisvilleTown website, says:
"If history had broken in just a slightly different way some 150 years ago, it's entirely possible that Louisville and Portland, Ky., could have grown into Twin Cities at the Falls of the Ohio.
And if they had, it's entirely reasonable to assume that Portland would have become the brawling, boisterous and blue-collar sibling, very much like St. Paul to Louisville's Minneapolis or Tampa to its St. Pete."
..or, more likely, Salford to Louisville's Manchester.
Portland is one of Louisvilles more unusual neighborhoods, due to its history, street plan, and even architecture.* But first, as backrounder, some geography.
The Ohio River at Louisville gets a bit complicated, pooling, then twisting and bending itself over the "Falls of the Ohio", really a series of whitewater rapids, made even more complex by exposed rock faces at low water and islands up & downstream.
..and a 1766 map, made by a British expedition down the Ohio.* Probably the earliest rendition.
...one could shoot the rapids via three "chutes" at high water..the "Indiana Chute", "Kentucky Chute", & "Middle Shoot" , with the Indiana Chute being the most favored..the width of passages through the rocks* here was the governing width for flatboats on the river.* A special kind of river pilot, the "falls pilot" was used to navigate the rapids during steamboat days.* Yet, at low water, one had to portage, either on the Indiana or Ohio side.*
Eventually settlement began.* First, Louisville, and forts on both sides of the river, as per this 1790s map:
...and, soon, other settlements, to take advantage of this break in river navigation.* Portland and Shippingport were the two Kentucky settlements that arose as ports for downriver shipping and cartage around the Falls.
Shippingport was founded by a French settler, James Berthoud, and Portland by William Lytle.* I'm not sure if this was the same William Lytle who figured in early Cincinnati history.* There is some evidence that Lytle did have a canal around the falls in mind when he chose his town site.* The town included "Portland Proper", and a string of outlots following the portage road to Louisville (later turned into a plank road/turnpike in 1818)
In any case, the both settlements had close trade ties with New Orleans and the French community there, and drew French settlers, including John James Audubon, famous for his bird paintings, but also, locally doing portature, such as this one of Marie Berthoud, wife of the founder of Shippingport:
So, Portland and Shippingport developed as competing towns to Louisville.* Louisville, however, had the advantage of a better harbor on the river, and also an earlier start.* William Lytle ran into financial difficulties and his properites taken by the Bank of the United States, who subdivided the outlots (hence the local street name "Bank Street")..subdivided in time to recieve the wave of Irish immigrants that hit Louisville.* Then a canal was built around the falls on the Kentucky side, the Louisville & Portland Canal, in 1830, with locks at Shippingport.*
The canal was built to 1820s era steamship sizes, and was obsolete by the 1850s, so there was still some demand for "forwarding & commission buisness" around the Falls, which was met by the construction of a railroad from the Portland wharf to Louisville in 1838.* The big potential boost to Portlands fortunes was inland railroad connections, as railroad terminus for Lexington.* Lexington had proposed to build a railroad to the Ohio, and wanted that railroad to terminate in Portland, bipassing rival Louisville.* If this strategy had worked Portland may have developed into the "twin city" of Louisville.* Instead, the Lexington railroad terminated at Louisville, which did become the "big city" at the Falls of the Ohio, the "Falls City".* Portland ended up annexed to Louisville in the 1850s, though it has retained a seperate identity to this day.
Portland in the 1850s...the wharf along the Ohio, Shippingport, the canal, and the developement along the turnpike to Louisville are all visible, as is the railroad.
A 1850s view towards Portland and Sand Island from Indiana:
And a late 1850s map, showing how Louisville in relation to Portland. By this time the L&N railroad had been built, which really was the economic driver for Louisville after the decline of steamboat traffic
The Louisville & Portland canal was enlarged in 1870, effectively ending any need to tranship freight, and the Kentucky & Indiana Terminal (K&IT) Bridge was built in the 1880s, connecting Louisville with the east side of New Albany.* This was the first bridge to permit vehicles to cross as well as trains.*
By the 1930s Louisville had grown up around Portland, which became a blue-collar, mostly Irish enclave in Louisvilles West End...sort of the "Bridgeport" or "Irish Channel" of Louisville. ..seperated from the city by industry & the K&IT RR grade elevations and sorting yards.* Remarkably, Shippingport still existed, too, though partially washed away by Ohio floods.* The 1937 Flood was the coup de grace for Shippingport, which was finally abandoned.* The flood also led to the construction of the levee & floodwall, which cut Portland off from the river (orange line in map below) and resulted in the removal of about half of "Portland Proper".*
The construction of I-64 followed the levee in the 1960s/early 70s.
Yet there is renewed interest in old Portland, as it is apparently a great archeological site.* The streets and wharf are still there as are the foundations of the old houses, shops, and inns, thus an "archeological park" has been proposed to reconnect Portland with the river
Now, for a brief pix tour of this unusual neighborhood....