Maine Irish Heritage Trail
South Portland Site Number 6
by Matthew Jude Barker
Mahoney Middle School (SPHS)
Corner of Broadway and Ocean Street
South Portland, Maine
Mahoney Middle School, one of two junior high schools in the City of South Portland, was built in 1923-1924 as the city's first high school. The previous high school had been destroyed in the town house fire of 1921. The "new" high school was state-of-the-art for its day, with an auditorium that sat 1200, "stereopticon and motion picture apparatus," and a spacious gymnasium that was well-equipped. Of course the school has had innumerable graduates of Irish heritage over the decades, as well as teachers of Irish extraction. Two of the earliest and most noted teachers of Irish ancestry were Joseph C. O'Neil and Daniel F. Mahoney.
Joseph C. O'Neil was a former SPHS teacher and baseball coach who grew up on Summer Street (now Broadway), the son of the noted local artist Thomas F. O'Neil. He became a teacher at South Portland Heights in 1913, was a teacher at Portland High School, and was later an educator in Connecticut. He married Marie Dyer, a member of the unbeaten 1910 SPHS girls' basketball team.
Daniel J. Mahoney was born in Portland in 1898, the son of Dennis Mahoney, a brick mason and contractor who was born in San Francisco of Irish parentage just prior to the Civil War, and Laura Sarah Cameron. He spent his formative years in Portland, but by 1920 he was a teacher at South Portland High School. Mahoney became the submaster of the school in 1925, a position he held until he became principal in 1940, when Principal George E. Beal became superintendent of schools. Mahoney was principal for the next twenty-five years. He died August 15, 1966 in South Portland. His sister Mildred was also a local teacher.
A new gymnasium for South Portland Junior High School was finished in 1957 at a cost of $629,200 and named after Superintendent George E. Beal, who had died suddenly in 1955. A local paper noted that the junior and senior high schools would eventually "swap plants" (see Portland Evening Express, 9 May 1957). The new high school opened a few years later. The junior high school, where it is located today, would be named Mahoney Junior High School after the death of Mahoney.
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Acknowledgements by Matthew Jude Barker
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