New Stuff

National Register Sites – Mapped!

In Spring 2019 I learned about Story Maps, and so this summer I decided to make an interactive map showing all of Biddeford’s National Register of Historic Places sites. Mobile and desktop friendly, it will bring you to all the National Register locations in our fair city. All mistakes and omissions are mine, but as of January 2020 it should be up-to-date. Enjoy!!

Here is a short link, for your convenience:

New Stuff, Updates

19th c. Main Street Maps!

Detail from the 1884 map – Main near Franklin Street!

As mentioned in the May 16th Biddeford-Saco Courier, we are thrilled to a virtual unveilling of the two maps we recently had conserved and digitized by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in North Andover, Mass. (The maps are super huge, and we are still trying to figure out how to display them in real life…stay tuned for that!)

Both maps are a wonderful records of Biddeford’s Main Street Historic District, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2009. (Oh and also portions of that little area called the Mills Historic District? Also on National Register? You probably haven’t heard about it though…) 😛

You can find full records of each map in the library’s catalog – but we’ve got digital copies right here for you to download and enjoy absolutely free, thanks to the support of the AWESOME Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation. ENJOY!

(Psst…the maps are huge, so be prepared if you aren’t downloading from a fast network…)


New Stuff

The *other* John Stevens

Pavilion (3rd Congregational) Church…aka McArthur Library!

Our building was designed by John Stevens (1824-1881), an incredibly popular church archicect of the mid-19th century from Boston, Massachusetts. Often there is some confusion though, as people probably look at his name and assume we mean John Calvin Stevens, the mega-famous (so most famous?) Maine architect.

But no, although John Calvin Stevens (1855-1940) takes the credit for Biddeford’s beautiful City Building, it was that other John Stevens (and you could rightly say the first John Stevens) who designed the beautiful 1863 building that would become home to Biddeford’s public library in 1902 – the McArthur Public Library that we all know and love.  

It is said that Stevens was so popular that he designed over 100 churches in New England, and it could be true…though I’ll let someone else do the tally on that. (Road trip!)

South Church, Andover, MA (courtesy of

You’ll notice, many of his buildings look eerily similar…so in your travels, be on the lookout for other Stevens buildings – you won’t be able to miss them!

For more information about our John Stevens (1824-1881), see the Wikipedia article (with photos!) or come by the library and thumb through the book The steeples of old New England : how the Yankees reached for heaven / by Kirk Shivell.

Neat finds and fun stories, Ponderings

A little inspiration for the newest townies…

Biddeford is in the middle of something big…we all know it, it’s been years in the making, and it’s pretty cool. There’s so much hubub, building, renovation, and yes demolition! going on nowadays…the city is changing before our eyes. But you know, it’s not the first time this has happened. Biddeford has always been a dynamic place, from fishing village to bustling lumber, milling and trading hub to textile manufacturing mecca. No matter what or whom has been at the heart of Biddeford, the face of the town is ever growing and changing. It’s one of the most interesting parts of my job, to piece together places in their many iterations, and then finding some way to share that with the community.

I’ve been cataloging a large number of old images of streets, homes and buildings lately, and thinking about all the renovating and upgrading and new construction going on downtown and elsewhere. It came to me that maybe you all would like to see some of the beautiful old dwellings which have graced our streets in the past. Maybe these images will inspire some of you newcomers in your renovations and rebuilding work, I hope they do! And if you have any questions or want to see more, you can feel free to contact us at the library or take some time to poke around the Local History Catalog (which is updated on a regular basis with new materials). Enjoy!!!

PS. Please excuse any mistakes made in my descriptions–my enthusiasm far outweighs my architectural expertise. Feel free to share what you know about this stuff!

Image 2439. Home on Center Street, Biddeford.
Image 2439. Home on Center Street, Biddeford.

Postcard Carr 619. Homes along Elm Street near South Street (200 block).
Postcard Carr 619. Homes along Elm Street near South Street (200 block). (Recognize these homes?? The mansard roofed building is now white, and the little New Englander has a big porch attached to the face of it now. Look at those trees!)

Postcard Carr 343. This is after the Harmon’s Corner fire, but see those homes? That’s the Methot Insurance building on the corner of Main and Elm, and the cute little cape next door is where the rental store is now.

Image 3008.  A home in Biddeford, circa 1877. The location is unknown, but this is a great example of a nice, simple home. Check out the pretty lamp on the corner!
Image 3008. A home in Biddeford, circa 1877. The location is unknown, but this is a great example of a nice, simple home. Check out the pretty lamp on the corner!

Apartment building, Elm Street and Emery Court (St. Joseph's Street), circa 1910.
Postcard bid.gen.039. I love this building! It was next door to St. Joseph’s Church, now it’s the parking lot. Beautiful windows and details, and check out those great buildings around it!

Image 0772. Apartment buildings on Main Street @ Elm Street (across from St. John's Building).
Image 772. Apartment buildings on Main Street , near St. John’s Building. Check out those great bay windows!


The Jefferson Street Church will live on (at the library!)

Well, by now I think everyone in town is well aware of the sad state of this building, and that in the near future it will no longer be a part of our cityscape. [For the record, I got to go inside it to take some pictures when I heard it was coming down, and folks, it was SCARY BAD in there. Sometimes you just have to know when to start fresh, and *this* fervent history lover agrees that this was the right thing to do here.]  

This, friends, is why we work to create and preserve a rich historical record of our dear city. If you’re interested in learning about this building, and the people associated with it, you know where to come.

  • The online History Index refers to numerous stories which appeared in the local papers about this church (scroll down to look under CHURCHES–FREE WILL BAPTIST and further on under  CHURCHES–UNITED BAPTIST.)
  • We have images up on Maine Memory Network of the church in 1955 and the reverend who was serving in 1895, Rev. Musgrove (who just happens to look kind of like Gerald McRaney–remember Simon & Simon?!?)
  • And just this week I digitized our copy of the Jefferson Street Baptist Church directory from 1926 and added it to our growing library of archival resources on the Internet Archive, which is fully downloadable and readable in multiple formats.

This is just a taste of what we have, and you can access even more here at the library (especially the newspaper articles, which are usually a treasure trove of information). We continue to try and to pull even more resources together to add to our “BUILDINGS + BLOCKS” binder, to make it easier for folks to locate materials which may live in several different collections.

In any event, be assured that there are people who are working to make sure that as time moves forward, one will be able to look back on where we have come from.

The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.  ~Harry S. Truman