Maine: An Encyclopedia


Loaction Map for York

Loaction Map for York

Year Population
1970 5,690
1980 8,465
1990 9,818
2000 12,854
2010 12,529
York Population Chart 1790-2010

Population Trend 1790-2010

Geographic Data
N. Latitude 44:30:48
W. Latitude 69:26:08
Maine House District 3,4,
Maine Senate District 35
Congress District 1
Area sq. mi. (total) 39.5
Area sq. mi. (land) 38.9
Population/sqmi (land) 228.2
County: York

Total=land+water; Land=land only

[YORK] The plantation of Agamenticus (or Acomenticus), now the town of York, was established on March 25, 1636 and incorporated as a city on April 10, 1641.

The name is from the Abnaki meaning “small river other side of island” or “on the other side of the river.”* A Native American returning from the sea would find what is now the York River as the smaller one on the other side of an island from the larger Piscataqua River.

Garrison-House at York, Built 1645

Garrison-House at York, Built 1645

Sir Fernando Gorges in 1641 immodestly named the capital city of his province Gorgeana.

York, was incorporated on November 22, 1652 from a portion of that city and is the second oldest town in Maine. The oldest is Kittery incorporated only two days earlier.

The following year the Old York Gaol was established as a prison, now the oldest English public building in the United States. In 1699 a court was established by Massachusetts to meet twice a year in York.

Seal of the Town of York (2002)

Seal of the Town of York (2002)

In 1692 it was the site of the Candlemas Ambush by Abenaki Indians in which 100 residents died in the French inspired incident. The battle was a severe blow to the English during what was known as King William’s War, or the first French and Indian War.

Here is how the 1881 A Gazetteer of Maine described the event:

In each of the three first Indian wars, great efforts were made by the savages to destroy the lace, but without success. The most disastrous of their attacks was in February, 1692, when an unexpected assault was made early in the morning by two or three hundred Indians under the command of Frenchmen. In half an hour, more than 150 of the inhabitants were either killed or captured. After burning all undefended houses on the north side of the river, the Indians retired quickly into the wilderness with about 100 prisoners, and all the booty they could carry. . . . Two garrison houses, McIntire’s and Junkin’s, built in this period were standing in the town, at a recent date.

York Beach Area (2001)

York Beach Area (2001)

Nubble Light (2001)

Nubble Light (2001)

Long a refuge for summer visitors seeking to enjoy its many beaches, York sought to protect their health in earlier times, as noted in the 1933 Report of the Health Department.  The Long Beach area pictured below, with nearby Kendall Road, is one of these shore escapes.  The view from Pebbledene illustrates the density of cottage development along the beach.

Long Beach (2013)

Long Beach (2013) @

Long Beach (2013)

Long Beach (2013) @

Long Beach (2013)

Long Beach (2013) @

Cottage Kendall Road (2013)

Cottage, Kendall Rd (’13) @

Cottages Kendall Road (2013)

Cottages Kendall Rd (’13) @

From Pebbledene (2013)

From Pebbledene (2013) @

Sewall's Bridge (c. 1908)

Sewall’s Bridge (c.1908) Library of Congress

Sewall’s Bridge, built to carry the Organig Road over the York River in York in 1761, is a very old wood-piling bridge. The pilings were of different lengths, the length of each determined by probing the river bottom with a long pole tipped with a pointed piece of iron. The piles were driven into the river bottom by standing them upright, then dropping heavy oak logs on them.

The original bridge was so well built that it remained in use until 1934, when it was replaced with a wood pile bridge of a design very similar to that of the original. That replacement bridge is in regular use today. This bridge was dedicated as a historic civil engineering landmark on July 24, 1986.***

Most of the town’s inhabitants are located between U.S. Route 1 (inland) and U.S. Route 1A which runs along the coast. Its population has more than doubled in the past thirty years, and grew by nearly 31 percent between 1990 and 2000.

Form of Government: Town Meeting-Select Board-Manager.

More Videos!


Additional resources

*See Glossary, source number 7.

Bond, C. Lawrence. Native Names of New England Towns and Villages.

Banks, Charles Edward. History of York, Maine: Successively Known as Bristol (1632), Agamenticus (1641), Gorgeana (1642), and York (1652). Baltimore: Regional Pub. Co. 1967.

Bardwell, John D. The York Militia Company, 1642-1972. York, Me. The Author. 1972.

Catalogue of the Relics and Curiosities in the Old Gaol, York, Maine. 1903. Boston: Press of Joseph Dooley.

Emery, George Alexander. Ancient City of Georgeana and Modern Town of York (Maine) from its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time: also its beaches and summer resorts. Boston. G.A. Emery. 1894.

Ernst, George. New England Miniature: A History of York, Maine. Freeport, Me. Bond Wheelwright Co. c1961.

MacIver, Kenneth A. and William Thompson. York is Maine: Cape Neddick, York Village, Nubble Light. Cape Neddick, Me. Nor’East Publications. c1983.

***Maine Department of Transportation. “Sewall’s Bridge, York, Maine.” (accessed December 14, 2017)

**Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me.  Text and photo from National Register of Historic Places:,

Cape Neddick Light Station: 85000844.PDF
Conant–Sawyer Cottage: 92000279.PDF
McIntire-Garrison House: 68000017.PDF
Old Gaol: 68000016.PDF
Pebbledene: 93001110.PDF
St. Peter’s By-The-Sea Protestant Episcopal Church: 99000773.PDF
York Historic District: 73000249.PDF

Marshall, Edward Walker. Old York, Proud Symbol of Colonial Maine, 1652-1952. New York. Newcomen Society in North America. 1952.

Masterton, Robert C. That York Harbor Bridge: only a small structure, but it has disrupted a town, embarrassed a state, roused the government and threatens to embroil the next Republican National Convention. New York. Eastern Publishing Co. 1910.

Moody, Edward C. Handbook History of the Town of York, from Early Times to the Present. Augusta, Me. York Pub. Co. 1914.

Olivier, Julien. Prendre le large: Big Jim Cote pêcheur. Bedford, N.H. National Materials Development Center for French. 1981.

Rolde, Neil. York is Living History. Brunswick, Me. Harpswell Press. 1975.

“Sewall’s Bridge (c. 1908)” photo. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540. (accessed December 14, 2017)

Spiller, Virginia S. Ed. 350 years as York: Focusing on the 20th Century. Town of York, 350th Committee. 2001.

Sylvester, Herbert Milton. Old York. Boston. W.B. Clarke Co. 1909.

Varney, George J. A Gazetteer of the State of Maine. p. 608

York Tercentenary Committee (Me.) Three Hundredth Anniversary, 1652-1952: Town of York, Maine. York, Me.? The Committee. 1952.

York, Maine Then and Now: A Pictorial Documentation. York, Me. The Old Gaol Museum Committee and the Old York Historical and Improvement Society. 1976.

National Register of Historic Places – Listings

Barrell Homestead

[west of York Corner on Beech Ridge Road, York Corner]

Boon Island Light Station

[Boon Island]

Breckinridge, Isabella, House

[off U.S. 1]

Cape Neddick Light Station

[Cape Neddick] Cape Neddick Light Station, on a high promontory reaching out into the Atlantic between Portsmouth and Portland, is an important navigation mark guiding sailors away from the jagged rocks at its base. One of the few stations that has never been rebuilt, it has become a mecca for artists and tourists because of its picturesque location and accessibility from the mainland. Locally known as “The Nubble”, it is connected by a bar with the mainland at a very low of tide.

There are five buildings on the island: the keeper’s house, which is connected with the light tower by a covered way; the red brick oil house; the wood frame workshop; and the boat house with ways leading to the water. The 39 foot light tower is iron lined with brick. The lantern has eight panes of glass, four ruby colored facing the land and the remainder, white, exposed to the ocean.**  [See photo above.]

Conant–Sawyer Cottage

Conant Sawyer Cottage (2013)

Conant Sawyer Cottage (’13) @

[14 Kendall Road] Built in 1877, enlarged in 1896, and moved about 1909, the Conant-Sawyer cottage is a Second Empire style summer house overlooking York Beach from Dover Bluffs. It stands out amidst its much altered neighbors, thereby conveying an accurate image of the modest cottages that characterized the immediate post-Civil War development of Maine’s summer colonies.

Dr. Josiah Conant of Somersworth, New Hampshire, bought the house shortly after its completion and owned it until his death. His widow sold the cottage to its most historically significant owner, Charles Henry Sawyer. A Dover woolen manufacturer, Sawyer was elected Governor of New Hampshire in 1886.

Sawyer apparently added the wing now containing the kitchen in 1896. The cottage stands in an area of modest summer residences known as Concordville which, as one turn-of-the-century publication noted, was “occupied almost wholly by New Hampshire people.” This illustrates the pattern in which visitors from small Maine or New Hampshire cities tended to congregate with other hometown vacationers. An 1872 map shows the handful of buildings in the neighborhood. An 1888 birds-eye-view reveals a much enlarged colony adjoining two roads that followed the peninsula’s shore. To the north a pair of expansive hotels indicated the explosive growth of the local tourism industry.**

Hancock, John, Warehouse

[Lindsay Road]

Hawkes Pharmacy

[7 Main Street]

McIntire Garrison House, National Historic Landmark

McIntire-Garrison House (1967)

McIntire-Garrison House (1967)

[Maine Route 91 about 5 miles West of York] The Mclntire Garrison is the most notable example remaining in Maine of a regional type of seventeenth century structure known as a garrison house, and built of sawn logs. It is probably the most significant type of characteristically 17th century types which were once relatively common. (Charles Snell photo)

The use of the type persisted because of its defensive advantages in an area where Indian raids were common until sometime in the eighteenth century. The house has traditionally been dated around 1645, making it one of the oldest log buildings in the country, although recent investigation shows its construction date more likely about 1707. The essence of this log building is hidden behind more recent clapboarding, which makes the building appear undistinguished from a number of other eighteenth century New England overhang type houses in the area.**

Moody Homestead

[Ridge Road]

Old Schoolhouse

[York Street (on the Village Green)]

Old York Gaol

[4 Lindsey Road] The Old Gaol is a well preserved and rare example of a substantial colonial prison building. Built in four building programs between 1720 and 1806, the structure has been altered very little and clearly illustrates the atmosphere of a type of building few people see, particularly the interior.

Begun about 1720, the Old Gaol served its incarceration function for over a century-and-a-half, until at least 1879. Although not the first gaol in Maine, it served all of the Province until 1760, and continued to serve the town for another century.

Altering its function to some degree at least, the building served as a schoolhouse during the 1890’s. In 1900, at the instigation of William Dean Howells, came to be used as a museum when a long term lease was obtained by the Gaol Committee of the Old York Improvement Society and The Society for the Preservation of Historic Landmarks. The Gaol is still administered by the committee, which keeps it well maintained and regularly open to the public.** [See photos in video above]


Pebbledene (2013)

Pebbledene (2013) @

[99 Freeman Street, York Beach] The 1896 Queen Anne style “Pebbledene” is architecturally significant as the last major intact example of a turn-of-the-20th century summer cottage in the Evanston area of York Beach. In a neighborhood containing a high concentration of summer cottages from a variety of periods, it is the last unaltered 19th century structure of this size here. Although larger and more ornate cottages were built elsewhere in York, this house represents the type built by upper middles class visitors to York Beach, who were also major contributors to the development of the summer resort.

The Edwin Rogers family summered at York Beach as early as 1893. It was one of the major coastal resort areas where most hotels and smaller cottages were built. Although the views were no less spectacular from York Beach, a social stratification generally distinguished it from York Harbor where wealthy summer visitors built the largest cottages.

The Rogers Cottage was one of the largest and most architecturally distinguished cottages to be built in York Beach. They named it “Pebbledene” after the large number of small pebbles on the beach nearby. With its wide veranda, corner tower and second floor porch, “Pebbledene” features all the elements that went into the design of a substantial summer cottage of the period.**

Rose, Robert, Tavern

[off Long Sands Road]

Sedgley, John, Homestead

[north of York Corner on Chases Pond Road, York Corner]

St. Peter’s By-The-Sea Protestant Episcopal Church

St. Peter's By-The-Sea Episcopal Church on the Shore Road in York (2013)

St. Peter’s By-The-Sea (’13) @

[529 Shore Road, Cape Neddick] The 1898 St. Peter’s By-The- Sea Protestant Episcopal Church is a Gothic style stone and wood building designed in the manner of an English country chapel. According to local historians, Philadelphia lawyer George Meecum Conarroe and his wife Nannie first summered in Cape Neddick in 1889. The following year they built a stone summer house on a site near the church site. Tradition holds that Mr. Conarroe had expressed a desire to erect a church on Christian Hill so the cross would be visible to sailors as they approached Perkins Cove in Ogunquit. After his death in 1896, Mrs. Conarroe built the church (as well as the Ogunquit Memorial Library) in memory of her husband.**

York Cliffs Historic District

[Agamenticus Avenue]

York Historic District

[roughly US Route 1, US Route 1A, Maine Route 103 and Woodbridge Road] The significance of the Town of York could rest upon its history alone, not only its importance to the state of Maine, but the early history of York is the early history of this nation. York, especially York Village and York Harbor, re­mains in essentially as they were in the 18th and 19thcenturies.

Architecturally York is a surviving late 17th and 18th century town. Its buildings are not great mansions but homes of this country’s pioneers. The homes and the public buildings are in a fine state of preservation because of the local people who realize their proud history and the contributions of their ancestors to the America’s history.

The District contains 56 historic buildings, including the Episcopal Stone Church, Old Gaol, Old Schoolhouse, York Town Hall, Powder House, York Public Library, among others.** (see video above)

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This entry was last modified: December 14, 2017 05:55 PM

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