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Old Orchard Beach, Maine facts for kids

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Old Orchard Beach, Maine
Garden by the Sea, after Thomas Rogers' town
Country United States
State Maine
County York
Settled 1653
Incorporated February 20, 1883
 • Total 22.53 sq mi (58.35 km2)
 • Land 7.43 sq mi (19.24 km2)
 • Water 15.10 sq mi (39.11 km2)
80 ft (31 m)
 • Total 8,624
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,160.7/sq mi (448.1/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
Area code(s) Area code 207
FIPS code 23-55085
GNIS feature ID 0582647

Old Orchard Beach is a town and census-designated place (CDP) in York County, Maine, United States. The population was 8,624 at the 2010 census. It is part of the PortlandSouth PortlandBiddeford, Maine Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Located on the inner side of Saco Bay on the Atlantic Ocean, the town is a popular summer beach destination. The downtown contains many tourist-oriented businesses, including clam shacks and T-shirt shops. A wooden pier on the beach contains many other tourist businesses, including a variety of souvenir shops. The seven mile (11 km) long beach stretching away from the downtown is lined with many beach residential properties, condominiums, motels and bed and breakfasts.

Early history

The area around the mouth of the Saco and Goosefare rivers was first discovered by European civilizations in the year 1603 by British explorer Martin Pring, although pockets of the Abenaki tribe inhabited the area before Pring's discovery of the region.

The Old Orchard Beach area began appearing in historical records around 1653. The area was first officially settled in 1657 by Thomas Rogers who had arrived in the Goosefare Brook area in 1636, and who dubbed it "The Garden By The Sea". The town takes its name from Rogers' abandoned apple orchard. Rogers' family left the area and relocated in Kittery, Maine after an Indian attack destroyed the Rogers' homestead. The namesake orchard survived for approximately 150 years as a beacon of land to sailors in the Atlantic Ocean. The historic Free Will Baptist revival camp at Ocean Park, Maine, just down the beach from central Old Orchard, was built in 1881 by Bates College President Oren B. Cheney. The mission of the Association, as declared to the State of Maine on January 24, 1881 was "to establish a place of summer resort for holding religious, educational and other meetings at Old Orchard, in Saco, Maine, in the County of York.". The community still thrives today.

Tourist resort

Old Orchard Beach has been promoted as a tourist destination since 1631, when its first settler established a "Garden By the Sea." In 1829 the first Public House opened, and in 1837 tourists paid $1.50 each to stay at a local farm. Railroad service between Boston and Portland opened in 1842. Over the years Old Orchard developed into a major resort. Airplanes took off from the beach and auto races were held on the sand. Most of the large hotels were destroyed in the fire of 1907. The oldest hotel still standing on the beachfront in Old Orchard at this time is The Ocean House Hotel & Motel, circa 1895, located at 71 West Grand Avenue. It retains its original parlors and character.


The seaside amusement park Palace Playland is located in Old Orchard Beach. The amusement park dates back to 1902 and sits on four acres of beachfront property. Palace Playland is one of the last old-timey oceanside amusement parks in New England.

In the past, two carousels were constructed with hand-carved horses and other animals. Old Orchard Beach was home to the first carousel in the United States, Noah's Ark, a kid-friendly, boat-shaped funhouse with hand-carved figures of Noah and his family, was designed to provide an exciting but not frightening experience for a 5-year-old. The entire structure would rock back and forth while guests meandered through dark passages. Colored lights would flash, loud klaxons would sound, and compressed air would shoot from the floor. On the Jack and Jill slide, two people would be placed on a large hemp mat in a wooden bucket, which would take them to the top of a 50-foot (15 m) tall tower and dump them onto a metal slide for a quick ride down.

The current 2011 version of Palace Playland consists of a newly built Ferris wheel, a 24,000-square-foot (2,200 m2) arcade, and 25 rides for both children and adults. The new Ferris wheel replaces the 70-foot (21 m) tall, decades old Sunwheel with one that is environmentally sound and technologically superior.

The Pier

OldOrchardBeach Pier
Pier at Old Orchard Beach

Three versions of the Pier were constructed by man and modified by nature. The first, 1,770 feet (540 m) long, was built of steel in 1898. When the ribbon was cut on July 2, 1898, it was a “global cultural icon,” at 1,825 feet the longest steel pier in the world, created by Berlin Iron Bridge Co. at a cost of $38,000. At its end was the Pier Casino, a ballroom with room for 5,000 dancers. Shortly after its completion a storm reduced its length by 150 feet (46 m). It was rebuilt, but 10 years later, after another storm, the pier was shortened to 700 feet (210 m) and the Casino was moved. In the interwar period, the Casino hosted such acts as Guy Lombardo, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Xavier Cugat and Frank Sinatra. After the war Old Orchard became somewhat downscale, becoming known as a destination for blue-collar partygoers. A fire in 1969 destroyed Noah's Ark, the two carousels, the Whale's Mouth, the Mine Ride, and the Jack and Jill slide. The Casino was demolished in 1970. The current incarnation of the pier was built in 1980 after being destroyed by a blizzard in 1978. The current structure stretches 500 feet (150 m) into the Atlantic Ocean. The wooden walk way is lined with souvenir shops, carnival-style foods, and a night club at the end of the pier.

Geography and transportation

The beach at Old Orchard Beach

Old Orchard Beach is located at 43°30′49″N 70°23′7″W / 43.51361°N 70.38528°W / 43.51361; -70.38528 (43.513714, -70.385363).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 22.53 square miles (58.35 km2), of which 7.43 square miles (19.24 km2) of it is land and 15.10 square miles (39.11 km2) is water.

During summer months, Amtrak's Downeaster train stops at Old Orchard Beach station with service to the Portland Transportation Center and Boston's North Station.

Twin cities

Old Orchard Beach is the twin city of the French seaside resort of Mimizan, as a reminder of Oiseau Canari, the pioneer aircraft crossing of the Atlantic by Assollant, Lefèvre and Lotti in 1929 to Oyambre (Cantabria, Spain).

Immigration and foreign affairs

Old Orchard Beach, during the high tourist season, sees an influx of Lithuanian, Latvian, Turkish, Serbian, Bulgarian and Russian foreign exchange students looking for summer work. Many French Canadians, especially from the province of Quebec, come for summer vacations, and it is common to hear conversations in French.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 887
1900 964 8.7%
1910 961 −0.3%
1920 1,164 21.1%
1930 1,620 39.2%
1940 2,557 57.8%
1950 4,707 84.1%
1960 4,580 −2.7%
1970 5,404 18.0%
1980 6,291 16.4%
1990 7,789 23.8%
2000 8,856 13.7%
2010 8,624 −2.6%
Est. 2014 8,756 1.5%
OldOrchardBeach FerrisWheel
Ferris wheel seen from the beach in Old Orchard Beach
Leavitt House, by James O. Durgan
Leavitt House, Old Orchard Beach, Maine, circa 1870

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 8,624 people, 4,454 households, and 2,106 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,160.7 inhabitants per square mile (448.1/km2). There were 6,886 housing units at an average density of 926.8 per square mile (357.8/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 98.2% White, 0.0% African American, 0.8% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.1% from other races, and 0.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.7% of the population.

There were 4,454 households of which 17.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.6% were married couples living together, 8.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.8% had a male householder with no wife present, and 52.7% were non-families. 41.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.93 and the average family size was 2.61.

The median age in the town was 47.8 years. 14.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24.1% were from 25 to 44; 35.7% were from 45 to 64; and 18.9% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the town was 47.9% male and 52.1% female.

2000 census

As of the census of 2000, there were 9,745 people, 4,294 households, and 2,254 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,188.8 people per square mile (459.0/km²). There were 6,222 housing units at an average density of 835.3 per square mile (322.5/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.54 percent White, 0.26 percent Black or African American, 0.28 percent Native American, 0.46 percent Asian, 0.03 percent Pacific Islander, 0.23 percent from other races, and 0.79 percent from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.02 percent of the population.

There were 4,294 households out of which 22.7 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.7 percent were married couples living together, 10.1 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 47.5 percent were non-families. Fully 38.6 percent of all households were made up of individuals and 11.7 percent had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.05 and the average family size was 2.73.

OldOrchardBeach Takadip 1914
"Takadip" Bath House in 1914, Old Orchard Beach, ME

In the town, the population was spread out with 19.1 percent under the age of 18, 6.5 percent from 18 to 24, 33.2 percent from 25 to 44, 26.2 percent from 45 to 64, and 14.9 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 96.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.0 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $36,568, and the median income for a family was $47,952. Males had a median income of $36,089 versus $26,429 for females. The per capita income for the town was $20,929. About 7.7 percent of families and 11.0 percent of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.7 percent of those under age 18 and 15.1 percent of those age 65 or over.

In popular culture

  • The Magnetic Fields have a song entitled "Old Orchard Beach" on their 1992 album The Wayward Bus.
  • Maine author Josh Pahigian has a mystery novel entitled "Strangers on the Beach" set in Old Orchard Beach.
  • Part of Stephen King's novel Thinner is set at Old Orchard Beach
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