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History

Old Orchard Beach has an incredible history with records dating back to 1653. Its first settler, Thomas Rogers, established “Garden by the Sea” in 1657. The “old” apple orchard from which the town took its name, a landmark to sailors for many years, was on high land above the long sand beach. In 1837, E.C. Staples was coaxed into taking summer boarders at his farm for $1.50 per week. Convinced of Old Orchard’s potential as a summer resort, Staples built the first Old Orchard boarding house near the top of today’s Old Orchard Street.

The next century saw the growth of the nation and the growth of tourism as a viable market on which to base Old Orchard Beach’s economy.

Accommodations and attractions of all sorts were built to bring in the tourists. Hotels, stores, amusement parks, racetracks and various other diversions were built to attract the masses, which came to include entertainers like Duke Ellington, public figures like Charles Lindbergh and wealthy families like the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys.

The decades followed and tourism continued to be the main thrust of the economic base in Old Orchard Beach. The 1950s and 60s saw the advent of motels and an economy whose clientele catered in large numbers to the Canadian market. In the mid-80s, there was a conscious effort by the local business, government and residential community to revitalize the downtown area and its immediate surroundings. This cooperative effort resulted in new Victorian lighting, wide brick tree-lined sidewalks, and an outside dining courtyard complete with fountain in Town Square and a newly renovated Town Hall.

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