PORTLAND (AP) – L. Robert Porteous, a philanthropist, state lawmaker and entrepreneur whose family name was synonymous with retail, has died. He was 81.

For years, the flagship Porteous, Mitchell and Braun department store was a destination on Congress Street. When it closed in February 1991, the city manager at the time described it as a blow to the city. The Porteous name faded away after the chain was sold in 1992.

Porteous’ son, who lives in Freeport, said his father “would have liked to see the store continue in Portland, but as with so many department stores around the country, the downtown stores just weren’t the same as they had been.”

“He loved Portland and he loved the state of Maine very much, and I think he would want his legacy to be that he tried to serve the city and the state as best he could,” L. Robert Porteous III said Tuesday.

Porteous, who died Saturday, was chairman during years of great expansion for the store. Between 1974 and 1985, five new stores opened as the retailer expanded into New Hampshire and Vermont. The company, founded in 1873 by Porteous’ grandfather and two partners, was sold to The Dunlap Co., of Texas, in 1992. No Porteous stores remain.

Porteous was a prominent Republican who served in the Maine State Senate, representing Portland and Falmouth. In 1972, he won the Republican nomination and made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Porteous also was an important figure in the city’s arts community, and was chairman of the board of Maine College of Art from 1982 to 1984.

The college split from the museum in 1982 “so it was a very important time for us and he sort of guided us in that transition,” said Tim Kane, the school’s vice president for advancement and college relations.

Roger Gilmore, the school’s former president and a friend of Porteous, said that “he was a leading businessman who took philanthropy seriously and gave his time and effort to a number of very important activities.”

Among the most notable, Porteous chaired the Portland Museum of Art’s campaign to build a new building. Later, he was instrumental in helping Maine College of Art acquire its new home – the old building that had housed Porteous’ department store on Congress Street.

Porteous also was a member of the Bowdoin College Board of Overseers. He was a 1946 graduate of the school.



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