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Cape Elizabeth, Maine
—  Town  —

Cape Elizabeth, Maine is located in Maine
Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Location within the state of Maine
Coordinates: 43°36′17″N 70°13′34″W / 43.60472°N 70.22611°W / 43.60472; -70.22611
Country United States
State Maine
County Cumberland
Incorporated November 1, 1765
 - Total 58.4 sq mi (151.3 km2)
 - Land 14.7 sq mi (38.2 km2)
 - Water 43.7 sq mi (113.1 km2)
Elevation 62 ft (19 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 9,068
 Density 615.5/sq mi (237.7/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 04107
Area code(s) 207
FIPS code 23-10180
GNIS feature ID 0582387
Union Brass Band of Ferry Village, first civilian band in Cape Elizabeth, 1873
Portland Head Light

Cape Elizabeth is a town in Cumberland County, Maine, United States, and is the state's most affluent municipality (per household median income) based on Census 2000 data. The population was 9,068 at the 2000 census. A residential and resort area situated on the southern shore of Casco Bay just south of Portland, Maine, Cape Elizabeth is home to Crescent Beach State Park and Two Lights State Park.

Cape Elizabeth is the location of the Beach to Beacon 10-kilometer road race that starts at Crescent Beach State Park (the "beach") and ends at Portland Head Light (the "beacon"). This road race attracts world-renowned runners and was founded by 1984 Olympics marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson who grew up in Cape Elizabeth.

Cape Elizabeth is part of the Portland–South PortlandBiddeford, Maine Metropolitan Statistical Area.



Portland Head Light

At the southern tip of the promontory, Richmond Island was visited about 1605 by Samuel de Champlain and was the site of a trading post in 1628. John Smith explored and mapped New England in 1615, and gave names to places mainly based on the names used by Native Americans. When Smith presented his map to King Charles I he suggested that the king should feel free to change any of the "barbarous names" for "English" ones. The king made many such changes, but only four survive today, one of which is Cape Elizabeth, which Charles named in honor of his sister, Elizabeth of Bohemia.[1]

The first habitation by Europeans was on Richmond Island. Without title, Walter Bagnall (called "Great Walt") in 1628 established a trading post, dealing in rum and beaver skins. "His principal purpose appears to have been to drive a profitable trade with the Indians," writes historian George J. Varney, "without scruple about his methods." His cheating caught up with him in October of 1631, when he was killed by the Indians, who also burned down his trading post.

Two months later, the Plymouth Company granted Richmond Island to Robert Trelawney and Moses Goodyear, merchants of Plymouth, England, who made it a center for fisheries and trade. By 1638, Trelawney employed 60 men in the fisheries. The first settlers on the mainland were George Cleeve and Richard Tucker, who settled in 1630 on the shore opposite the island, and near the Spurwink River. They worked at planting, fishing and trading. Two years later they were driven off by John Winter, Trelawny's agent. In 1636, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, Lord Proprietor of Maine, gave Cleeve and Tucker a grant of 1500 acres (6 km²) including the neck of land called "Machegonne" -- now Portland. In 1643 English Parliamentarian Alexander Rigby bought the large existing "Plough" of "Lygonia" patent which included the entire area including Cape Elizabeth.

The Cape Elizabeth settlement located on the Fore River would be known as "Purpoodock." It was attacked during King Philip's War in 1675, then destroyed in 1703. It would be resettled about 1719 or 1720. Cape Elizabeth became Maine's twenty-third town on November 1, 1765 when it separated from "Falmouth," as Portland was then known. Its first town meeting was held on December 2, 1765. South Portland separated from Cape Elizabeth in 1895.

Fort Williams in 1907

In 1872, construction of an artillery base began around Portland Head Light, which in 1899 would be named "Fort Williams," after Major General Seth Williams of the Civil War. The fort was to guard the southern entrance to Portland Harbor. Active between 1899 and 1962, the fort was purchased by the town for about $200,000. Today, Fort Williams Park includes the ruins of the Goddard Mansion and three battery posts, Portland Head Light (dating from 1790 and the first lighthouse constructed by the United States, authorized by George Washington and dedicated by General Lafayette) and museum, tennis courts, a baseball diamond and grandstand, several acres of fields, a magnificent stretch of accessible coastline, and is maintained by the town which has repeatedly opted out of parking fees to ensure the park is maintained for use free of charge to the public.

Notable inhabitants

Historic Sites & Museums


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 58.4 square miles (151.3 km²), of which, 14.7 square miles (38.2 km²) of it is land and 43.7 square miles (113.1 km²) of it is water. The town includes two islands. Ram Island, very small and unoccupied and the larger Richmond's Island used primarily for farming. The total area is 74.78% water. The nearest city is Portland. Portland Head Light, claimed to be the most-photographed lighthouse in the world, is actually located in Cape Elizabeth in what is now called Fort Williams Park.


Cape Cottage Casino in c. 1905

As of the census[2] of 2000, there were 9,068 people, 3,488 households, and 2,605 families residing in the town. The population density was 615.5 people per square mile (237.7/km²). There were 3,724 housing units at an average density of 252.8/sq mi (97.6/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 98% White, 0.3% African American, 0.06% Native American, 0.99% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.12% from other races, and 0.49% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.50% of the population.[3]

There were 3,488 households out of which 36.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 65.7% were married couples living together, 6.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.3% were non-families. 21.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.01.

Cape Cottage Theatre in 1906

In the town the population was spread out with 26.5% under the age of 18, 3.7% from 18 to 24, 23.5% from 25 to 44, 30.3% from 45 to 64, and 16.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.4 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $72,359 (2007 est. 92,604, and the median income for a family was $86,126 in 2000. Males had a median income of $61,128 versus $32,500 for females. The per capita income for the town was $37,983. About 1.3% of families and 3.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.5% of those under age 18 and 8.1% of those age 65 or over.


The Cape Elizabeth School Department consists of Pond Cove Elementary School, Cape Elizabeth Middle School, and Cape Elizabeth High School, the town's only public schools. The Cape Elizabeth School Department offices are located across the street in Cape Elizabeth Town Hall. No private educational institutions, with the exception of preschools and day care centers, are located in Cape Elizabeth. The High School had its first graduating class in 1877.

Cape Elizabeth is home to one of the oldest continually operating pre-schools in the greater Portland area, Ledgemere Country Day School. The school first opened it's doors in 1935 and has been operating in the same location ever since, though under a number of different owners.


Cape Elizabeth is administered by a mayor and town council.


Cape Elizabeth is served by a community newspaper, the Cape Courier. The non-profit, bi-monthly paper is largely supported by volunteers, and was started by Ellen Van Fleet and Jan Soland in 1988. The Current, a weekly that began publishing in 2001, also serves the town, as well as the neighboring communities of Scarborough and South Portland. The earliest newspaper in town was the Casket, published in 1868 by George Libby, a realtor. The Coast Watch was a weekly newspaper started in 1895, lasting 20 years. In 1881, the Cape Elizabeth Sentinel was published in Ferry Village, now a part of South Portland. This weekly lasted nearly 30 years.


  1. ^ Stewart, George R. (1967) [1945]. Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States (Sentry edition (3rd) ed.). Houghton Mifflin. p. 38. 
  2. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ [1]Information, Cape Elizabeth

External links

Coordinates: 43°33′49″N 70°12′00″W / 43.56361°N 70.2°W / 43.56361; -70.2



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