The Eastland Hotel has been overlooking Congress Square and has been a part of downtown Portland’s skyline for nearly 100 years. When it originally opened in 1927, it’s said that the keys to the front door of the hotel were dropped into Casco Bay. Is it true or just an old legend?
According to Wikipedia The Eastland Hotel, known today as the Westin Portland Harborview, was built by the Rines family, who owned Rines Brothers Department store on Congress Street in Portland, right across the street from rival Porteous.
Construction was completed in 1927 and it was a big deal for Portland. It had 369 rooms, along with 140 apartments and shops. It was 13 stories and stood at a height of 129 feet. It was the largest hotel in all of New England at the time and got Portland a lot of attention back in the day.
A huge opening ceremony was organized in celebration of the grand opening and according to MaineMemory.net, popular national radio personality Graham McNamee was there for the celebration and pulled off a symbolic stunt in an airplane.
McNamee took the keys to the hotel’s front door with him up in an airplane and dropped them into the waters of Portland Harbor where they likely still sit to this day. It was a little like receiving the key to the city. Just a symbolic gesture letting people know that the hotel needs no keys because it never closes.
The ownership of The Eastland has changed many times over its nearly 100 years, becoming the Sheraton-Eastland Motor Hotel in 1965. The Eastland Motor Hotel in 1974. The Sonesta Portland Hotel in 1983. The Eastland Plaza Hotel in 1995. The Radisson Eastland Hotel Portland that same year. It was renamed the Eastland Hotel again in 1999 and was completely gutted and remodeled into today’s Westin Portland Harborview Hotel in 2013.
To Mainer’s though, it will always be The Eastland, even though the sign at the top of the building can be a little confusing with both East and West in its name.
As for the front door keys, they’re still probably sitting at the bottom of Portland Harbor, but I’m sure they’ve changed the locks several times by now.
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