Park(ing) Day 2021: Reflecting on the Meaning of “Home”

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We think Portland, Maine is amazing. The historic Arts District attracts innovative, creative people, while businesses love the fact that, regardless of the season, Maine offers plenty to see and do—making it easier to retain top talent. 

At Trueline,  we’ve always treasured our ties to the Portland community. Through First Friday Art Walks, we championed local artists by transforming our office space into a makeshift art gallery. Pre-pandemic, hordes of people would stream down Congress Street—hopping from one open door to the next. While this allowed us to meet our neighbors with a glass of wine and a friendly vibe, it also made us feel like a valued part of the community at large.  

The pandemic brought a lot of things into focus. While we missed our daily interaction with coworkers, we discovered that productivity increased as we worked from home. We polled our employees and found that over 90% preferred the work-from-home model. It was with a heavy heart that we decided to sublet our beloved office space.  

One of our favorite annual community events in Portland is Park(ing) Day. Started in San Francisco in 2005, the goal of Park(ing) Day is to transform urban parking spaces into mini “parks” for one day. These tiny parks allow people to play, make art or simply interact with one another. So when Portland Downtown announced the return of Park(ing) Day this year—after a break due to Covid-19—we knew we had to participate.  

A (Living) Room With a View 

A permit from the city allowed us to reserve the parking space directly in front of our Congress Street office. With our work-from-home model in mind—and after a fair amount of coffee—we set out to transform our small space into a makeshift living room.  

With an area rug brought from home, and a coffee table and chairs nicked from our reception area, it started to come together. We pulled out a partition and tacked up some printouts featuring QR codes that linked to recent media articlesblog posts, and employee spotlights

Throw in a couple of bean bag chairs and it was really quite comfy! 

A History of Commerce, Words and Images

To fully understand our relationship to our office space, here’s a bit of context. Our office at 561 Congress Street has a storied history. In the early 1920’s, if one was looking for supplies, they could jump on the electric trolley that lined Congress Street and get off at Green Bros. General Store. At the same time there appears to have been a back room that was used as a billiards room. 

In subsequent years, the space was home to several department stores. 

In the 1980’s the small alternative newsweekly, Casco Bay Weekly, moved from the founder’s apartment on Clark Street into the vast 561 space. Casco Bay Weekly provided an alternative voice to the mainstream media. The 90’s saw their influence over Portland’s citizens rival that of much the larger Maine Times and Portland Press Herald.  

In 2004, Casco Bay Weekly closed its doors. This led to an opportunity for the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Salt, a non-profit graduate program dedicated to nonfiction storytelling, called 561 Congress Street home for over a decade. Graduates of the Salt institute went on to work on radio staples such as Radiolab and This American Life. Other alumni worked on podcasts such as Criminal and the Gravy Podcast. 

In 2015, the Salt Institute merged with the Maine College of Art & Design. Their move into the MECA&D building made room for Trueline. Our growing team was bursting out our office on Portland’s east end.  

What is This? 

Back on the street on Park(ing) Day, we had a great time interacting with the people passing by. We received plenty of inquisitive looks with a few people cautiously approaching to ask, “What is this?” We loved explaining the history of Park(ing) Day—and why we felt it was important to participate. 

In one example of how circular Portland’s community truly is, a current Salt student stopped by to interview us. Speaking of Trueline’s connection to 561 Congress, we were able to explain how she, too, was part of its history. This brought home how our office—while inspiring—doesn’t define who we are.  

While our front window may display a “For Lease” sign, we’re still running full cylinder. Give us an internet connection and we’ll show you why we’re Portland’s premier full-service marketing agency.  

From marketing strategy to website design, Trueline’s got you covered. We’ll continue to provide outstanding service and innovative creative solutions for our clients even though our environment may change. Just as the Salt Institute found a new home at MECA&D we’ll find our new home, well, at home.   

Looking back on the history of 561 Congress Street, we’re honored to be a part of its legacy. And we can’t wait to watch its next chapter unfold.