Portland’s history is marked by war-borne destruction and devastating fire. In 1866, a fire started by a 4th of July celebration leveled the city. Hundreds of houses and most of the public buildings were destroyed – the Great Fire of 1866 had leveled the city for the fourth time. The city rose triumphantly from ashes (the city’s seal depicts a rising phoenix, a nod to the city’s legendary recoveries) and was almost completely rebuilt, and today it maintains much of its 19th century architecture and flavor.
Renewed interest in exporting, the prominent fishing industry, and the redevelopment of Portland's working waterfront have revitalized Maine's largest metropolitan center. In the 1990s, Congress Street, the city’s major artery, underwent revitalization and the downtown Arts District was established. In 2001, restoration of passenger rail service between Boston and Portland provided invigorated access to the city.
With constant attention to landmark preservation, Portland has successfully incorporated the character of the past into a modern urban environment. In 2003, the National Historic Trust honored Portland by naming it one of its Dozen Distinctive Destinations. This award is bestowed upon 12 U.S. communities that offer Americans enjoyable natural, historic, aesthetic, recreational, and cultural experiences. Since then, Portland has been recognized as the country’s "most livable city” (Forbes 2009), among many accolades, and it is widely regarded as a top travel destination.