In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Biddeford History & Heritage Project

Sharing the history of a proud city rising where the water falls

VIII. Changing course and new beginnings (1955-Present)

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Small, innovative businesses popped up and created opportunities although mostly away from the downtown area. Main Street lost its luster as restaurants, department stores and professional offices were replaced by second-hand shops, convenience stores or empty, dilapidated buildings. A controversial trash incinerator in the heart of downtown, divisive politics, and an effort by the residents of the beach neighborhoods to separate themselves from the rest of the city further fueled this sense of anger, animosity, and negativity that hung in the air throughout the 1980's and into the 1990's.

Civil War Monument, 2010. Photograph by Jamiee Beatson, Biddeford High School.

Biddeford, however, has other plans for itself. Residents and stakeholders from out of town have worked hard over the last 15 years or so to create a sense of hope and renewal in this plucky city. More development has taken place in the industrial and shopping parks on the western end of town, and investments in new schools have been made. The former mill buildings are slowly being refinished and repurposed into modern residences and boutique manufacturing and business space. A growing community of artists and entrepreneurs are breathing new life into the downtown, and hope to transform it back into the lively neighborhood it once was. The entirety of Main Street has been named to the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the Mill district.

The tradition of Biddeford as a place of possibility for those seeking a better life for themselves and their families has been renewed, manifested today by the partnership of old-timers, newcomers, downtown and beach residents, for the benefit of all. A handmade arch over the walkway to the former Laconia Mill Building #3, which--now home to shops, cafes, and residences-- reads, "Resurgam", Latin for "I rise again". It is an apt expression of the past and the future for this river-side community.

North Dam Mill, 2010. Photograph by Kylie Clukey, Biddeford High School.