Biddeford, Maine

Biddeford, Maine is the largest city in York County and is the principal commercial center for York. Biddeford is the 6th largest and the southern-most incorporated city in the state. Biddeford had 20,942 residents in the 2000 U.S. Census.

The beginning of 1617 saw the first European settlers in the area, and in 1653 the first town was named Saco. In 1719 the areas were reorganized and the center of the original settlement was named Biddeford. Due to the deep water falls on the river separating Saco and Biddeford, many mills were built and the economy supported numerous lumber and grain mills. Textile facilities were the next wave to locate in Biddeford and the town was incorporated in 1855 when it hosted dozens of saw and textile mills. The textile mills reigned for years but as in other New England towns they eventually declined from the days when Biddeford mills employed 12,000 people.  Today there is only one textile mill still in town and logs haven’t floated down the Saco River to be cut at a mill since the last one in 1948.

Biddeford’s economy is still water-based, but now the area that originally saw working mills is an upscale waterfront neighborhood using picturesque renovated old mill buildings as a real estate base. The 15 miles of coastline are the Biddeford line of demarcation with the Gulf of Maine and Saco Bay and provide the new commercial center its useable land that the seaside neighborhoods of Hills Beach, Biddeford Pool, Fortunes Rocks, and Granite Point are established on. Part of this seacoast neighborhood is the Woods Island Lighthouse. On the eastern end of Wood Island about a mile from shore, this white and green beacon still warns mariners of the rocky coastline as it has done from the first lighting in 1808. The light has been automated since 1968, but the lighthouse keeper's residence is still maintained by The Friends of Wood Island Light, while the U.S. Coast Guard maintains the light.

The University of New England has two of its four college campuses located in Biddeford. The College of Arts and Sciences offers more than 30 undergraduate majors, ranging from aquaculture and aquarium science to sport management, while  the College of Osteopathic Medicine is dedicated to the improvement of life through the education of osteopathic physicians.

While Maine doesn’t have an abundance of sandy beaches to sun bathe on, Biddeford is the exception. Magnificent beaches along the coast at Biddeford Pool and Fortunes Rocks are available for public use with ample parking and bath facilities. Beach parking passes are available for a fee from the City Clerk’s Office in Biddeford City Hall.

Boating and canoeing are accessible on both the Saco River and the Atlantic Ocean. Biddeford has an abundance of magnificent natural areas particularly along the coast which offer outstanding opportunities for hiking. Nine city parks offer a full range of recreational facilities including playgrounds, ball fields, tennis courts and hiking trails. Rotary Park, a 75-acre park along the Saco River, has a public beach for swimming and a separate boat launching facility. This boat launch allows boaters to access the Upper Saco River. Clifford Park, a 30-acre forested tract with nature trails serves as Biddeford’s “in town” park for leisure recreational activities.