Sunday, October 24, 2010

Twin Cities: Biddeford & Saco

town sign welcome Saco The Saco River connects the Maine towns of Biddeford and Saco, which were originally considered a single town. Today the towns refer to themselves as the “Twin Cities.”

lite (2)Biddeford is a the largest city in York County, Maine and the 6th largest city in the state. It is the most southerly incorporated city in the state and the principal commercial center of York. It is the site of one of the earliest U.S. European settlements – first settled by in 1616. 

In 1653, Roger Spencer was granted the right to build the first sawmill. Lumber and fish became the chief exports. In 1659, a garrison and mill were built at the falls. During King Philip's War in 1675, the town was attacked by Indians. Settlers withdrew to  safety, and their homes and mills upriver at the falls were burned. In 1693, a stone fort was built a short distance below the falls, but was captured by Indians in 1703. The town was reorganized in 1718 as Biddeford – after Bideford, a town in Devon, England, from which some settlers had emigrated. saco city collage2 In 1762, the land NE of the river was set off as Pepperellborough, named after Sir William Pepperrell, who in 1761 purchased 5000 acres and timber rights to 4500 acres on the east side of the Saco River. Pepperrell donated land to the town for use as a village common, burial ground and site for a new meetinghouse.

The first bridge on the Saco River connecting Biddeford and Saco was built in 1767. The river divides into two falls that drop 40 feet providing water power for mills. Boot and shoe factories were established. The developing mill town also had granite quarries and brickyards and lumber and grain mills. Major textile manufacturing facilities were constructed along the riverbanks, including the Laconia Company in 1845, and the Pepperell Company in 1850. This was the town’s last remaining mill and is also now closed.

pepperill mill collage

Biddeford incorporated as a city in 1855 and built a city hall.

biddeford city hallThe mills attracted immigrants from the province of Quebec. At one time, textile mills employed up to 12,000 people. Today all are closed down and in serious need of repair as shown by these photos of a mill downtown Biddeford that lost its steeple. Time is really at standstill for this once proud clock

old mill-clock (1)

biddeford mill collage old mill-clock (5)

The McArthur Public Library, housed in the former Pavilion Congregational Church on Main Street, anchors Biddeford's historic downtown. Biddeford was one of the first cities in Maine with public library service. Robert McArthur, an Irish immigrant, who started working as a bobbin boy in a mill, gave the funds to purchase the building and monies to provide for its maintenance.


biddeford collage

Directly across the river from Biddeford is Saco, formerly known as Pepperrellborough after Sir William Pepperrell, who in 1761 purchased 5,000 acres and timber rights to 4,500 acres on the east side of the Saco River. Pepperrell donated several acreage to the town for use as a village common, burial ground and site for a new meetinghouse.

By 1805, the town was renamed Saco since the name was too cumbersome. It was incorporated as a city in 1867. Saco became a lumber center with log drives down the river. At Saco Falls, timber was cut by 17 sawmills. In 1827, the community produced 21 million feet of sawn lumber, some of which was used for shipbuilding. The last log was driven down the Saco River in 1943.

City Hall dates from 1856 and has undergone several renovations, including an attempt to remove the bell and clock in 1880 and surviving a fire in 1895.Saco city hall

main street Saco The Saco Manufacturing Company established a cotton mill in 1826, with a canal dug through rock to provide water power. The mill burned in 1830; replaced in 1831 by the York Manufacturing Company. For well over 100 years, it was the city’s largest employer and taxpayer; however, York closed in 1958 as the New England textile industry faded in the 20th-century and the building sits empty.old mill Saco

With the arrival of the Portland, Saco and Portsmouth Railroad in 1842, the area developed into a major textile manufacturing center; brick mills dominated the Saco and Biddeford waterfronts. Other businesses included foundries and machine shops.  saco city collage2


Anonymous said...

It´s always interesting to read about twin cities like these! That they have grown like to separate and independent cities even if they lie so close.

Thanks and have a great day now!

Lois Evensen said...

I love your history reports of the places you travel. This is so much fun. :))

Ginnie said...

Your tour of Maine has been very interesting but I look forward to your getting home and posting some more I said before the eggplant quiche is a keeper !

Elaine said...

Love the photos of the old clock!

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Hello everyone, yes it has been fun and so very interesting touring Maine and its small towns, but we are looking forward to get back home to the Frog & PenguINN.

Christer, these two cities were the first so-called twin cities we visited on the trip, but I'm sure there are many more since so many towns were mill towns built up near rivers, like Saco and Biddeford. It was good to see that both these towns are working to "re-invent" themselves after the mills have closed down.

Lois, thanks and glad you continue to enjoy!

Hi Ginnie, we will have to re-acquaint ourselves with our kitchen, but yes we will be back to cooking and posting recipes again. There were some small eggplants in our garden when we left, so if they survive, eggplant quiche may be on our menu again too - glad you enjoyed it!

Elaine, hopefully the old clock will be restored, but it will need a lot of restoration based on the condition we saw it. We talked to someone who told us it was taken down well over 20 years ago.

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