Located on Saco’s historic Main Street, the Saco Museum is a regional museum of fine and decorative arts and historic artifacts. The Institute was founded in 1866 and is the third oldest museum in Maine. The museum’s distinctive red brick Colonial Revival building was designed by the noted Maine architect John Calvin Stevens in 1926 as fire-proof gallery space for the Institute’s extensive collections.
The Saco Museum’s collection contains more than 10,000 artifacts, including superb collections of documented local furniture, clocks, and other decorative arts such as silver, ceramics, textiles and costumes.
The museum is well known for its rich collection of paintings and portraits from the Saco River region, and the finest and largest collection of portraits by the renowned deaf artist John Brewster, Jr. (1766 – 1854).
Other regional artists represented in the collection include Gibeon Elden Bradbury (1833 – 1904) and Charles Henry Granger (1812 – 1893). (Click here for more information about Granger’s work and some examples)
Charles Henry Granger was one of the founding members of the Institute. The sculpture collection includes works by Charles Granger, Jeanie Akers Bradbury, Katherine Tupper Prescott, and John Rogers.
Besides the fine arts, the museum houses a number of rare treasures of national significance. The Scamman Jug is a remarkably preserved Westerwald jug bearing a medallion of King William III, which was first owned by Humphrey Scamman (1640 – 1727) of Saco. The Walcott/Johnson camera was the first daguerreotype portrait camera in the United States, built in 1840 and presented to the Institute by its first president, John Johnson.
Another rare artifact is the 850-foot long Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress. One of only a handful of 19th century panoramas to survive, the Pilgrim’s Progress was painted in New York in 1851 by a group of artists and illustrators associated with the National Academy of Design. It is a unique and unforgettable example of this nearly extinct art form.
The museum’s galleries are set up to allow changing exhibitions showcasing the extraordinary collections, special interpretive exhibits, and important works by contemporary Maine artists. Permanent exhibits include paintings, furnishings, and household objects with documented histories of ownership in the Saco valley in the 18th and 19th centuries. A re- created Colonial Revival kitchen presents a 1926 interpretation of early American food production and preparation. Federal and Victorian period bed chambers offer insights into the life-styles of prominent local families. The museum also has a 19th century display of natural history specimens, including birds of New England.
The museum offers on-going programs for students, adults, and families as public out- reach. The schedule includes walking tours, art classes and workshops, visiting lecture series, musical events, and a biennial historic house tour emphasizing art, history, and culture.