Maine Place Name Classification

A place to discuss the classification of cities, towns, townships, plantations, neighborhoods, villages, etc. in the great state of Maine in the United States. This is branching off from the Broad undiscussed New England place name reclassification so we can focus on the specific circumstances of Maine.

Although I am familiar with Maine, I will rely on Wikipedia for some stats out of convenience.
Types of places in Maine that are incorporated:
Cities: Usually larger than towns, but not always. Largest is Portland, population 68,408, smallest is Eastport, population 1,288 (formerly had a population of 5,000). Unlike towns, have an elected mayor.
Towns: I believe an important distinction of a town vs. a city is that certain functions are done through direct democracy at the annual “New England” town meeting as well as by the select board. Largest town is Scarborough, population 21,982 and smallest is Frenchboro, a small island off the coast with a population of 29. Frye Island in Sebago Lake is also apparently a town with a population of 32 even though it is seasonal.
Plantations: Less organized version of towns. Some of them may be plantation in name only and are no longer incorporated at all. Largest is Dallas Plantation with a population of 304. My take is these are essentially areas that don’t have a town government, but still want some local control.
Townships Unincorporated areas that are important enough to at least have their own name. Some of them have people living in them and used to be towns before disincorporating (example: Albany). Others have not had people living in them for a long time, if ever.
Of course their are many other neighborhoods, villages, and other places that are less formally defined.

However, as we have discussed, OSM place classifications are more about their prominence and not a single attribute such as their form of government or their population. So I’ll start by taking a stab at cities. My background is that I spent the first 22 years of my life living in Western Maine so I am pretty familiar with Maine southwest of Waterville. I’ve currently sold out to live in other parts of New England, but I still have close ties to Maine.

The top three ‘alpha’ metro areas:
Portland: largest city, huge cultural and commerce hub.
Bangor: second largest city, major hub for this part of the state.
Lewiston-Auburn Metro - twin cities, major culture and economic hub. Old mill cities. Lewiston has the edge in prominence due to having a larger population (37,121 vs. 24,061) Bates College and major hospitals. Last large bastion of French speakers in the United States. I think a strong argument could be made that they both should be cities, as they really go together as a pair, not with one being superior to the other. No one would ever describe Auburn as being a suburb of Lewiston.

The state capital:
Augusta. Not much else going for it, but being the state capital and one of the larger popular centers in the state gives it prominence.

Other large areas in the running for cities:
Biddeford and Saco: Biddeford, Saco, and neighboring Old Orchard Beach combine for over 50,000 residents. Biddeford and Saco are old old mill cities on the Saco River while Old Orchard Beach is the beach town. Population certainly swells higher in the summer. On the flip side, the area is in the shadow of Portland a bit, but by no means a bedroom community.

Regional city, far enough away to not be “overshadowed” by any other city. Classic old mill city, also home to Colby College. Small city proper area may make the population of 15,828 seem smaller than it is.

Second largest town in Maine, though population of 21,756. Home to Bowdoin College and formerly had an air force base. A little bit in the shadow of Portland, but it wouldn’t really be appropriate to call it a suburb. OSM actually had nearby Bath classified as a city and Brunswick classified as a town. It’s kind of hard to explain, but from visiting there, I would say Bath has more of a ‘city feel’ where Brunswick has more of a ‘town feel.’ But I would say Bath is too small for the city classification, even if it is an important ‘blue collar’ place for ship building.

Presque Isle: largest city in Northern Maine, home to a public university. Even if its population is smaller (8,797), a strong case for city classification can be made given its regional importance and isolation.

Sanford: Oftentimes overlooked because it’s not on the highway, but 8th largest municipality in Maine (6th largest not overshadowed by another) with a population of 21,982. Old mill town.

Excluding Sanford, this list of cities (Portland, Bangor, Lewiston, Auburn, Augusta, Biddeford, Saco, Waterville, Brunwick, and Presque Isle) are all equally given the largest fonts on the back of the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer. I think it is a pretty sound list, but we are here to make our own map, not copy others so hopefully we can decide what’s right for OSM.

Personal vote:
For Portland, Bangor, Lewiston, Auburn, and Augusta to be classified as cities.
Lean cities for Waterville and Presque Isle
Neutral so far on Saco, Biddeford, Brunswick, and Sanford.

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Hi @ConradWard did you consider posting this in the Framework for aligning New England place nodes to census categories topic? Maine is in New England, no? Several Maine cities are under discussion there.

I think diverting from the current discussion, which is about adopting a system related to the US Census categorization of New England Micro and Metro areas, is going into the wrong direction.

I have to admit I didn’t really notice that discussion before posting this one (I assumed it was an old discussion that someone had posted a reply to, not a brand new discussion). The thought process was that I didn’t want to overwhelm any New England discussion getting too detailed about Maine. Really just wanted to get a dedicated conversation started and see where other people take it, as I’ve noticed several other mappers with a particular interest in Maine. The New England census discussion seems focused on larger population areas where I was hoping to discuss towns and smaller areas as well.
One other past discussion about Maine for reference:

I couldn’t find any other related Maine discussions on the forum, but if anyone knows of any on Slack or elsewhere, please don’t hesitate to share the list.

I apologize for the confusion and maybe I will hold off on posting further until the ‘framework’ discussion gets figured out. But once it is done, I’d like to take a stab at some of the towns as well.

Please don’t hold off! We need active discussion to build consensus. I understand your desire to focus just on Maine, but I think place classfication needs to happen on a more regional level. At least at the higher levels of place=city and place=town. Urban areas often expand across state boundaries. Looking at their census defined Urban Areas, greater Portsmouth, NH extends into Maine, and greater Boston, MA extends into New Hampshire. Highway classification has worked well on a state by state basis because the highways are managed by each state’s DOT and that jurasdiction does ends at the state boundary. The place key is more nebulous as it attempts to classify settlements which have formed over time and do not fit neatly into state or even municipal boundaries.