The Portland Observatory was built by Capt. Lemuel Moody primarily "to observe and signalize shipping," according to Captain Moody and His Observatory, a book by John K. Moulton. It was known as the best built and longest lasting coastal observatory tower on the Atlantic Coast. Greater Portland Landmarks took over management of the Observatory on behalf of the city in 1982 and gives tours throughout the warmer months. It closed in November, 1994, due to unsafe conditions from moisture and infestation of the anobiid beetle.
The Portland Observatory Restoration Trust (P.O.R.T.) was formed in 1997 to rebuild and restore the Observatory, with Hilary D. Bassett serving as campaign director. Other women who were members of the Trust were Victoria Loring, Jean McManamy, and Munjoy Hill attorney, Barbara A. Vestal. Reconstruction of the Observatory was completed, and it reopened in 1999.