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James McGlinchy House

James McGlinchy House
Jun 26, 2017 (Edited Dec 17, 2021)

This brick edifice, which adjoins the old St. Dominic Church rectory (156 Danforth Street), was built about 1875 for James McGlinchy (1822-1880), grocer, clothier, brewer and wine merchant. A native of Cumber Parish, County Derry, Ireland, McGlinchy came to Portland as a nineteen-year old in 1841. Within a few years he and his older brothers Hugh, Patrick, and Andrew, were buying stores in the vicinity before realizing a much more profitable endeaveor: Rumselling. Portland Mayor Neal Dow, "the Czar of Temperance," Had prohibition law enacted in 1851 (the first in the country), the so-called "Maine Law," which prohibited the sale or consumption of alcohol except for medicinal or mechanical purposes. He would become the #1 enemy of hundreds of Irish who continued to sell liquor on the sly. Through astute maneuvering, threatening witnesses, and acting as bondsmen, "Big Jim" McGlinchy circumvented the law and soon was making a small fortune by bootlegging. In 1858, he and his brother Pat opened a brewery in Cape Elizabeth and continued operating breweries, through loopholes in the law until the 1880s. They sold the booze in Boston and New Hampshire, but not locally.

James McGlinchy was quite active in local Democratic circles, the Irish American Relief Association and other Irish groups, and was at the forefront of the local Irish Relief Committee of 1880, which was formed to send aid to the sufferers of yet another famine in Ireland.

When Jim Died in 1880, at the age of 58, he had outlived three wives and twelve of his seventeen children. His estate was estimated at $200,000, making him by far the wealthiest Irishman in southern Maine. A beautiful stained glass window, in memory of Jim and his third wife Ann O'Neal (1831-1876) can be seen across the street at the old St. Dominic's Church, now the Maine Irish Heritage Center.

When this "mansion" was being built, the old-time Yankees, especially Elias Thomas, were quite offended that this upstart Irishman was building a home so nearby. After Jim's death, his children continued to reside here. His daughter Mary, married to John C. Clancy, a customs attorney for the Dominion Steamship line, resided here until her death in 1918. The home was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland after the death of Jim's daughter Hattie (1870-1930). It was for many years the convent for the Sisters of Mercy who taught at nearby St. Dominic's School. It then became the residence of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) who taught at the Cheverus Classical Institute on Free Street and later at Cheverus High School on Ocean Avenue. In the late 1960s the residence became Holy Innocents Child Home Care Center. Since 1970 it has been occupied as private offices and residences.

RELATED SITES: Elias Thomas Home, Maine Irish Heritage Center, Neal Dow House, Gorham's Corner, Center Street

Author Matt Barker
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