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A Walking Tour Of Historic Main Street

This tour describes some of the historic buildings and sites along a 1/2 mile section of Main Street, Saco. The tour may be begun from the parking lot of the Dyer Library on the northern part of Main Street, or from Saco Island on lower Main Street. After a tour of Main Street, a return walk down Middle Street to the east or Elm Street to the west will reveal more of the historic diversity of Saco. Parking is available at the Dyer Library, 371 Main Street, or at the City lot adjacent to the railroad tracks on Saco Island. The tour was prepared for the City of Saco by Thomas Hardiman, curator of the York Institute Museum.

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1. James Fenderson House, 1914
384 Main Street
A jeweler and Saco mayor, James Fenderson purchased this unusual California bungalow as a pre-cut kit from Sears Roebuck & Co. It is listed in the Sears catalog as "Modern Home # 124." This is the best documented kit house in Saco and a good example of the bungalow style.

2. Solomon Coit House, c. 1785
380 Main Street
The Coit house is the best surviving example of a late Georgian mansion in Saco. It is the work of master builder William Pepperrell Moody, and is notable for its slightly asymmetrical facade and elaborate triangular pediments over the windows. Historian George Folsom described Captain Coit as an "eminent shipmaster," whose ships carried New England merchandise to Europe and around the Horn to China.

3. York Institute Museum, 1926
375 Main Street
John Calvin Stevens of Portland designed this Colonial Revival museum in 1926. The brick walls are laid in Flemish bond and there is stone trim at the water table, window sills and arches, and door surround. These textural details and the stepped exterior chimneys give the building the appearance of a Southern Colonial mansion. The Institute houses one of the oldest and most interesting collections in Maine.

4. Elizabeth and Henry B.C. Green House, 1827
374 Main Street
The Green house exhibits many typical features of a Saco Valley house of the Federal Period: the chimneys are built against the end walls, the gable roof has no overhang at the eaves, and a shallow molded cornice runs across the facade. The entrance has a glazed transom and sidelights, and the Tuscan pilasters of the surround have an exaggerated swell in the center known as entasis.

5. Joseph G. Deering House, 1869
371 Main Street
Saco lumber baron Joseph Deering purchased a local brickyard to supply the pressed brick for his new Italianate mansion. The house features a 3-bay facade and an open gable in the roof. There are limestone window and door frames, heavy wood balustrades, and an intricate cornice with shaped dentils and modillion blocks. This house is on the National Register of Historic Places.

6. Jonas C. Tibbets House, 1860
365 Main Street
In contrast to the Deering house, this wood framed Italianate house features a hipped roof with broadly projecting eaves supported on paired scrolled brackets. Similar brackets adorn the glazed belvedere in the center of the roof.

7. 1st Parish Congregational Church, 1862
12 Beach Street
The distinctive steeple of this Italianate and Romanesque church has served as a marker for Saco's principal cross-roads for a century and a half. The architect was John Stevens of Boston and the contractor was Thomas Hill of Saco. The flush board siding, corner buttresses and heavy window hoods imitate features of masonry construction in less expensive Maine pine. This well- preserved church is on the National Register of Historic Places.

8. York Manufacturing Company Agent's House, 1889
350 Main Street
This outstanding Colonial Revival house was built by the York Manufacturing Co. to house Franklin Nourse, the first mill agent to live outside the mill-yard. The architect, Horace Wadlin, embellished his design with fluted pilaster cornerboards, molded window caps, and roof dormers.

9. Emma Hall House, 1892
342 Main Street
The Hall house is the best example of a Queen Anne style residence in the Historic District. It features an asymmetrical plan and corner tower, a complex roofline, a multi-story porch with decorative spindlework, and varied siding materials. Locally, this house is associated with Ruth Olive Roberts, who taught music to countless children in the grand double-parlor.

10. Thornton Hall, 1801
331 Main Street
This sleek, square, three-story hip roofed mansion demonstrates the restrained elegance of the Adamesque style. The design is attributed to builder/architect Bradbury Johnson, who came to Saco in 1801 to present a handsome design for the town's new meetinghouse. The owner, Joseph Leland, was a wealthy lumber merchant who supplied much of the timber for the meetinghouse. For many years this was the home of Sarah Fairfield Hamilton (1831 - 1909), a leader in the women's suffrage movement and other progressive social issues.

11. Dr. Jeremiah Mason House, 1856
319 Main Street
Built for dentist Jeremiah Mason, this is a good example of a brick Greek Revival residence. It has a 3-bay facade with a side hall plan and the principal entrance on the gable end. The heavy brick entablature is similar to those on the mills being erected at the same time.

12. James Curtis House, 1827
312 Main Street
Now adapted to commercial use, this 3-bay "half house" was originally the residence of James Curtis, who ran a distillery on the site. The house features flush roof eaves, a shallow wooden cornice, tall end chimneys, and flared granite window caps. The heavy Doric porch was added later in the 19th century.

13. Daniel Page House, c. 1800
311 Main Street
This 5-bay Federal Period cape is notable as being the first house built on the east side of Main Street between Pepperell Square and Beach Street. The property belonged to loyalist William Pepperrell Sparhawk, whose holdings were seized by the State during the Revolution. The Pepperrell lands were divided into house lots and sold at auction in 1798-99.

14. Old Dyer Library, 1893
308 Main Street
The former home of the Dyer Library was designed by Boston architect Horace G. Wadlin, and features Colonial Revival elements such as broken scroll pedimented dormers and banks of arch-topped windows. Horace Wadlin was a cousin of Saco philanthropist Cornelius Sweetser, whose generous bequests to public institutions like Thornton Academy, Pepperell Park, Laurel Hill cemetery, and Dyer Library resulted in a boon for Wadlin's architectural practice. Wadlin later became the librarian at Boston Public Library.

15. Saco City Hall, 1855
washington_180_235300 Main Street
Portrait of George Washington Saco Town Hall was erected in 1855 despite public outcry over the expense of its construction. It was designed by local builder Thomas Hill in an eclectic expression of the Greek Revival, Italianate, and Gothic Revival styles. The ground floor housed offices and fire barns, while the main floor contained a large public hall. In 1880, an elegant clock tower designed by Francis Fassett of Portland replaced the original central cupola. Interior renovations of the first floor were carried out in 1989 and the upper floors were renovated in 1995. A series of patriotic portraits painted by Saco artist Charles Henry Granger in the 1860's adorn the walls of the auditorium, which is open to the public. City Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places.

16. Mutual Theatre, 1927
268 Main Street
This is a rare example of an early modern commercial block in Saco. Designed as a combination insurance office and motion picture theater, the Mutual block has the horizontal, rectilinear massing and geometrical ornament of the Arts and Crafts Style. It is an interesting attraction in the melange of architectural styles on Main Street, complimented by the new Most Holy Trinity Church across Main Street.

17. Cyrus King House, 1807
255 Main Street
Perched atop a fully articulated basement story, this Federal Period mansion is unusual for being sited so far back on its lot and facing away from the street. Built for Congressman Cyrus King, this refined Adamesque house was remodelled in the late 19th century for industrialist and inventor Horace Woodman. Since 1916 it has been the rectory for Most Holy Trinity Church.

18. Masonic Block, 1907
252 Main Street
This gargantuan Renaissance Revival block dominates the commercial center of Saco. The block features multi-story windows with arched tops and trefoil tracery as well as decorative metal roof cresting. This is the only commercial block in Saco which actually covers the whole width of a city block. It was designed by Penn Varney of Lynn, MA. It is notable for retaining two of its original occupants: Saco and Biddeford Savings Institution and the Masonic Lodge.

19. Tristram Hooper Store, 1824
237 Main Street
The Hooper store is one of three Federal Period commercial buildings in this section of Main Street, along with the Abel Hersey shop (c.1814, 228 Main St.) and the Manufacturer's Bank (1825, 224 Main St.). The Hooper store is notable for having a brick facade with flared granite lintels, while the main body of the building is stone rubble. A date stone in the gable end reads "Built 1824."

20. Saco House, 1837
209 Main Street Originally built as a hotel and stage coach terminal, the Saco House is one of the few early Greek Revival hotels to survive in the state. The old hostelry was gutted by fire in 1912, but the unique facade, with its giant Ionic pilasters spanning the top two floors and floating over the curved ends of the ground floor, was saved. It has been home to Atkinson's Furniture for more than 75 years.

21. Central Hall Block, 1828
206 Main Street
Central Hall is one of the earliest Greek Revival blocks in Maine, built of brick with an elegant post and lintel facade of dressed granite. The rhythm of the two-story granite facade is continued onto the neighboring Deering block (190 Main St., c. 1845). Together, these two blocks give a good impression of the style and sophistication of Saco's commercial district 150 years ago.

22. William Pike Block, 1869
199 Main Street
This large Victorian commercial block was originally two stories tall with a mansard roof, like the wooden block next door. In 1896, the Odd Fellows hired John Calvin Stevens to remodel the block as their lodge hall. The intricate diaper patter brick work and terra cotta panels were added by Stevens.

23. York National Bank, 1896
180 Main Street
Built on the site of an 18th century stockade, Brown's Garrison, the York Bank block has been used as a site for banking since 1833. The northern three bays of this block contain part of the original 1833 York Bank. In 1896, it was remodelled by John Calvin Stevens in the Colonial Revival style with buff brick and terra cotta Ionic pilasters on the second story. In the 1920s the block was greatly enlarged by repeating the original design to the south.

24. Pepperell Square
Originally known as the Haymarket, Pepperell Square has been the commercial heart of Saco since the 18th century. Ideally located between the mills above the falls and the wharves below the falls, the square was the site of the Customs House when Saco was a thriving seaport. Two well-preserved commercial blocks, Deering & Lowell's block (1857, 6-10 Pepperell Square, and Gilpatrick's block (1846, Common St.) give some idea of the appearance of the square in its heyday.

25. William Deering Block, 1894
163 Main Street
A symbol of the prosperity of the 1890's, the William Deering block exhibits a variety of patterns and textures in its three stories of pressed brick. The top floor features Romanesque arches over the windows and a diaper pattern frieze picked out in yellow brick.

26. Berry Block, 1869
152 Main Street
Originally a Greek Revival block of stores, Berry's block was built by local contractors Augustus Scamman and David Bacon Hill in typical fashion, with plain brick walls and horizontal granite lintels. In the 1890s the roof was raised, arched windows put in the third floor, and cast iron columns added to the shopfronts. The Italianate Sweetser block (1874) next door also shows the type of substantial Victorian commercial blocks which linked downtown Saco with the mill district's industrial, commercial, and residential complex on Saco Island.

27. Saco Island, Biddeford/Saco Mill District
Saco Island was the heart of Saco's industrial development in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For a more detailed history of industry in Saco see Factory Island Mill District elsewhere on this site.