The twin cities of Biddeford–Saco have a history that dates back from the time early Europeans first visited the North America. In fact, the first recorded white settler lived here in 1616, a certain physician by the name of Richard Vines who lived in these parts for a year (back then of course neither Biddeford or Saco existed!). This settlement actually predates the arrival of the Mayflower by around four years.
Since then, over the next 150 years to be more exact, history rolled on and by that time, both Biddeford and Saco came into their own right as cities with a thriving population and economy.
In the current modern times, these cities still retain a number of homes and institutions from a bygone era, and the following are few examples of the Biddeford-Saco history.
Born in 1718, Amos Chase first came to Saco in 1734, where he lived till his death in 1818 at the ripe old age of a hundred. He was the first deacon of the First Congregational Church and lived here during the Revolutionary wars in which he played an active role. He kept a tavern, ran the lower ferry, helped build local bridges and was a farmer and lumberman. A prominent citizen of Saco in his time, he was involved in religious activities as well as civic matters, and his brother Samuel Chase went on to be one of the signatories of the US Constitution. The Amos Chase still stands to this day at 144 Ferry Road, Saco.
Trinity Episcopal Church:
Built over a hundred and fifty years ago, this church was built by the Episcopal Society of Saco, who traced their ancestry to about 1636! The Church itself was named the Trinity Episcopal Church on 15th September 1827 by a petition to the Justice of the Peace by the society. The church stands at 15 Cleveland Street now, but was originally built on Pleasant Street, and moved to its current location on 4th December 1959.
Originally an opera house that opened its doors at 205 main street in 1860, it was unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1894. Two years later though, the opera house was rebuilt on a design by architect John Calvin Stevens. By 1928 cinema arrived at the opera house and in 1955 it was officially known as the City Theater. With the advent of TV and drive in theaters, this institution lost its popularity and by 1963 was shut, with interest in it perhaps only sparking when it was listed as a historic building in 1973. In 1977 the city theater association started a campaign to restore and renovate it and in 1978, it once again opened its doors to the public. In 1990, it received a much needed full restoration and since then, has continually been improved on to its current condition.
McArthur Public Library:
Located on 270 Main Street, the library was the former Pavilion Congregational Church, which was purchased and repurposed as a library. It opened its doors to the public in 1902. Robert Macarthur was one of the driving forces behind its inception, and the library has come to be named after him. He was an Irish immigrant and a self taught man and he worked as an agent at the Pepperell Mill during the time of the creation of the library.
John Tarr House:
John Tarr, the son of a Richard Tarr, was a mariner, supposedly born in Saco in 1688, and was the original owner of the house. He married in 1718 to an Elizabeth Haines, and went on to have one daughter. Their house, The John Tarr house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Biddeford City Hall:
Located on 205 main street, this building in its present form was built in 1895, on the base of an 1858 Municipal building. The form of the building is Romanesque revival and the building, with an irregular footprint, has features like a clock tower, cornice and a first floor faced with rusticated stones. The building was listed in the National Registrar in 1973, and is one of several listed buildings on Main Street.
These are just a few of the many buildings that for a part of the historic heritage of Saco-Biddeford, twin cities that share a history that goes back all the way to Richard Vines of 1616 AD.
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