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Portland Town

Portland Village Hall is located at 34 West Main Street, Portland NY 14769;phone: 716-792-9614.

Beginnings [1]

In 1859 Joseph Fay, Garrett Ryckman and Rufus Haywood bought land from Elijah Fay and established a winery that produced 2,000 gallons of wine in the first year. The increase in grape farming throughout the Brocton/Portland area enabled the company to increase its production. In 1865 this company produced 16,000 gallons of wine.

Beginning in 1868 Portland became the home of the Brotherhood of the New Life, a religious commune that settled here to seek spiritual purification through hard labor and communal living. Their spiritual leader, Thomas Lake Harris, purchased large tracts of prime farmland along the shores of Lake Erie. The Brotherhood's vineyards became one of the premier forerunners of the grape industry in Chautauqua County. This spiritual community disbanded by the late 1800s.

Farmers in the Brocton/Portland area went into grape growing on a large scale in the years following the Civil War. By 1870 nearly 200 tons of grapes were harvested from 600 acres. Many wineries flourished during this time. An extremely cold winter in 1873 destroyed many grapes, but the hardy Concord grape survived, thus becoming a favorite and widely grown variety in the town of Portland and other towns of Chautauqua County.

With the coming of the Welch Grape Juice Company to nearby Westfield in 1897, the grape industry became a major contributor to the growth and prosperity of the area. By 1913, grape cultivation had become the most important crop in Portland.

  1. New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, prepared by Kathleen A. Howe, Architectural Historian, Bero Associates, Brocton Arch,, nomination document, 1995, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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