The Gateway to Maine
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Maine’s oldest and most southerly county was created in 1652 as Yorkshire Province. Less than an hour by car from Boston, York County — Maine’s southernmost shire — is by far its most visited region. It’s also the state’s fastest growing county, experiencing a development boom that’s only likely to continue with the widened Maine Turnpike and return of passenger rail service in the form of the Amtrak Downeaster.
This stretch of Maine is most famous for its broad white beaches and picturesque New England towns. The towns of Kittery (10,225), Old Orchard Beach (8,856), and Parsonsfield sit at the corners of the roughly triangular county, and each characterizes the diversity of the region. Kittery is known as the home of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as well as myriad factory outlets, and is the state’s principal gateway. The sleepy, rural town of Parsonsfield is in the foothills of the western mountain region and, like many of the communities on York County’s northwestern flank, its forested knolls are still dotted with pastures and farms. Old Orchard Beach, with its beach, pier, and amusement park rides has an allure unlike any other in Maine, attracting thousands of visitors, many from French-speaking Québec, with its carnival atmosphere.
York’s coast is also the home of the famed villages of Kennebunkport (3,720) and Ogunquit (1,226), where tourists flock by the thousands in the summer. The profile of Kennebunkport was first raised when George H.W. Bush was elected president and then again with the election of George W. Bush. Tourists flock to Walker’s Point , the Bush family’s impressive summer compound on the spectacular Ocean Avenue, but even more come to the Kennebunks for their beaches, inns, scores of shops, impressive Colonial architecture, and historic small-town ambiance.Ogunquit is probably best known for its three-mile beach, considered by many to be Maine’s finest stretch of sand. Brimming with tourists come July, Ogunquit gained fame early in the twentieth century as both art colony and summer resort — today it functions more as the latter with its gift shops, inns, condominiums, and large hotels, but the presence of the former can still be felt. Ogunquit’s neighbor to the north, Wells (9,400), is also a busy summer community and its many antique shops and used bookstores make it popular with shoppers of the rare and unique. Much of the large Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, acres and acres of salt marshes and stretches of woods, sits in Wells.
The neighboring cities of Biddeford and Saco (with populations of 21,594 and 18,164 respectively) together make up York County’s largest center of commerce. They also include the summer colonies of Camp Ellis and Biddeford Pool. Inland, Sanford (21,252) is one of the state’s fastest growing communities, and the Berwicks and the Eliots are residential, riverside communities that house many who work at the shipyard and in New Hampshire.
By Virginia M. Wright
Photographed by Douglas Merriam
Helene Fortier, a church organist in Biddeford, gets inspiriation from Bach. Produced by Adriana Widdoes and Diamian Biniek from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
Discover the spirits and apparitions that haunt the City Theatre in Biddeford. Produced by Claire Jeffers and Dana Crawford from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
Jerry, owner of Jerry's Gems & Rock Shop, has been collecting rocks for over sixty year. Find out what fuels his passion. Produced by Nancy Forsell and Colleen Vasu from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
Donald Lessard, father to ten, husband, and Biddeford native, has dedicated his life to helping the less fortunate and sharing his message of faith. Produced by Alexander Kreher and Amy Miller from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
A day in the life of a waitress at the Golden Rooster on Main St. in Saco, Maine. Produced by Jessica Pierce and Ryan Noyes from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
Red and Lorraine Soucy were born on the same block and fell in love as teenagers in Saco. Separated only by World War II, the two soul mates have been married for the past 66 years. Produced by Robert H. Smith and G. Ligaiya Romero from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
A day in the life of Brendon Shea. No matter where he goes, he always comes home to Biddeford, ME. Produced by Masumi Hayashi-Smith and Luke Streckfuss from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
Barbara McAllister comes from a family of Greek immigrants in Saco, Maine and has found a way to spend her Saturdays doing something that both connects her to the people in her community and honors her rich family history. Produced by Ellen Sherwood and Laura Candler from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.