Saco, Maine, (population 18,000) is situated on the Saco River, whose dramatic falls attracted Native people for centuries for seasonal fishing and hunting. Permanent European settlers arrived in 1631.
In 1716, William Pepperrell purchased large tracts of land and timber rights in the area. The village, then known as Biddeford, grew steadily through the 18th century, and in 1762, settlers on the eastern bank separated and named their new town Pepperrellborough, which was changed to Saco in 1805.
The first of many cotton mills was built in 1825, and the sister cities of Biddeford and Saco became manufacturing leaders in the industrial age. Civic life took on new ceremony with the building of a handsome town hall in 1855, which was renovated in 1995. Saco incorporated as a city in 1867, and an influx of immigrants from Europe and Quebec added cultural diversity to the city’s other assets.
The closing of Saco’s mills between 1948 and 1987 was perhaps the greatest challenge in the city’s history, but Saco is thriving once again, thanks to diversification of the local economy.
The town’s rich history is told in the architecture of Main Street, which reflects almost every period of change and development in the city’s history. The Saco Museum Main Street Walk, created by the city of Saco and the non-profit Saco Museum, takes visitors along a history trail with 12 interpretive panels, lavishly illustrated with historic photographs, that tell stories about residents and activities in Saco’s history.
The city’s annual street festival, Old Home Days, features historic walking tours and storefront displays of historic photos and artifacts.
Designated a Preserve America Community in April 2007.