Sanford, Maine, (population 22,000) is located in the southwest corner of the state. Incorporated in 1768, Sanford remained a farming and logging community until the arrival of British industrialist Thomas Goodall in 1867. The woolen textile complex Goodall and his sons built fueled the town's prosperity for nearly a century. The mills created carriage robes, carpets, draperies, auto fabrics, armed service uniforms, and material for men's and women's clothing. The wealth and philanthropy of Goodall led to the construction of Sanford Town Hall, the Sanford Unitarian Church, Lewis B. Goodall Library, H.D. Goodall Hospital, Oakdale Cemetery, Goodall Park, and the Sanford Country Club.
When the mills left in 1954, a third of the town's population was thrown out of work, almost overnight. A spirited effort to recruit new industry led to several new businesses and a nickname immortalized by Life magazine in 1965: “The Town that Refused to Die.” The liberal arts Nasson College closed in the early 1980s, draining cultural vitality from the community. In the 1990s, globalization robbed the town of much of its remaining manufacturing base. Today, Sanford is reinventing itself by focusing on its quality of life, its natural assets, and its historic Downtown.
The former Sanford Town Hall was recently rehabilitated through the efforts of the Sanford Springvale Historical Society. The 1873 town hall is an example of Greek Revival architecture but had fallen into disrepair over the years. The historical society determined to rehabilitate the structure into a museum to showcase Sanford history. The rehabilitation was made possible by donations and the more than 100 individuals who contributed volunteer time. The rehabilitation included removing the front vestibule and replacing it with a replica hood and corbels, the replacement of more than 90 percent of the wiring, the restoration of a performance stage, and the addition of a handicapped accessible bathroom and ramp.
Each year, third graders in the Sanford School Department visit the Sanford Springvale Historical Museum for a tour focused on the town's history. Through the tour, students learn how early settlers were drawn to the town because of the sawmill, how Sanford residents made a living in the textile mills, and how the town has evolved over time. The visit includes a walking tour of historic buildings, accompanied with historic photographs to explain how they have changed over time.
Designated a Preserve America Community in July 2009.