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Saco in York County, Maine — The American Northeast (New England)
 

Saco Museum, Founded 1866

Saco Museum Main Street Walk

 
 
Saco Museum, Founded 1866 Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), November 12, 2021
1. Saco Museum, Founded 1866 Marker
Unfortunately, the marker has weathered significantly.
Inscription.  
Founded in 1866 as the York Institute, the Saco Museum is one of the oldest museums in Maine. The Institutes mandate was "to promote the study of Natural Hitory; to encourage Science and Art; also to collect and preserve whatever relates to the Natural and Civic History of York County." Among the founders were John Johnson, pioneering inventor of early photographic processes, and Charles Henry Granger, a Saco artist, best known for his painting Muster Day in the National Gallery of Art.

The museum's first home was the upper floors of george Calef's commerical block on Factory Island. The growing collection of birds, books, and [unreadable] of rocks quickly became too large for the space of the organization could afford to rent. In 1871, the York Manufacturing Company offered the large hall over its offices.

In 1890, a bequest by [unreadable] philanthropist Cornelius Sweetser enabled the musuem to purchase Sweetser's old shoe factory on Main Street. (This building still stands today. It is the large building on the west side of Main Street before the river. The Sweetser Block was remodeled [unreadable]
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rentals on the first floor, the museum room, library, lecture hall and lady's parlor on the second floor, and the [unreadable] and domestic manufactures rooms on the third floor. The Sweetser Block was home to the museum for more than 30 years before it moved to the north on Main Street.

The Institute sponsored educational lectures and live entertainment. Some early lecture topics were The Germ Theory, Disease, Electricity, The Gulf Stream, and Atmosphere. Travelers would often return with specimens and photographs and tell their stories.

In 1926, a "sightly lot in Hartley's Field" was purchased for the "erection of a new York Institute Building." A gift from Orestes and Josephine Pierce and Henrietta Watkinson Pierce made the building possible. The organization "secured the services of John Calvin Stevens, ARchitect." to design the new building. The stately Colonial Revival brick and granite building that stands today at 371 Main Street is the result of Stevens' work. In 1969, a large windowless gallery addition was added to serve as exhibition space and provide on-site storage. In 1976, the York Institute merged with the Dyer Library Association and changed its name to the Saco Museum in 2000. Today, the Dyer Library and Saco Museum represent an important cultural hub for the region.

With over 11,000 objects in its collection, the
Saco Museum, Founded 1866 Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), November 12, 2021
2. Saco Museum, Founded 1866 Marker
Saco Museum has a rich diversity of objects including the largest known collection of portraits by noted American folk art painter, John Brewster, Jr., the first patented camera in the United States, 19th century furniture, ceramics and numerous odd and interesting artifacts. Other regional artists represented in the collection include Gibeon Elden Bradbury and Charles Henry Granger.

The museum houses a number of rare treasures of national significance. The Walcott/Johnson camera was the first daguerreotype portrait camera in the United States, built in 1840 and presented to the Institute by its first president, John Johnson. Another rare artifact is the 850-foot long Panorama of Pilgrim's Progress. One of only a handful of 19th century panoramaas to survive, the Pilgrim's Progress was painted in New York in 1851 by a group of artists and illustrators associated with the National Academy of Design. It includes scenes whose deign was contributed by Frederic Edwin Church and Jasper Cropsey

Permanent exhibits include paintings, furnishings, and household objects with documented histories in the Saco valley in the 18th and 19th centuries. The museum also has a 19th century display of natural history specimens, including birds of New England. The museum offers on-going programs for students, adults, and families as public outreach. The schedule includes
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art classes, workshops and visiting lecture series.
 
Erected by Saco Museum.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: ArchitectureArts, Letters, MusicCharity & Public WorkEducation. A significant historical year for this entry is 1866.
 
Location. 43° 30.123′ N, 70° 26.501′ W. Marker has been reported unreadable. Marker is in Saco, Maine, in York County. Marker is on Main Street (U.S. 1) 0.1 miles north of Elm Street (U.S. 1), on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 371 Main St, Saco ME 04072, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this location. The Dyer Library, Founded 1882 (within shouting distance of this marker); War Memorial (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Veterans' Memorial at Eastman Park (about 500 feet away); World War Memorial (about 500 feet away); Spanish War and Philippine Insurrection Memorial (about 500 feet away); Veterans Memorial (about 600 feet away); Jacob Cochran, 1782-1836 (about 700 feet away); Samuel Brannan and the Gold Rush (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Saco.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on November 19, 2021. It was originally submitted on November 19, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 142 times since then and 9 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on November 19, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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Apr. 23, 2024