Located on Saco's historic Main Street, the Saco Museum is a regional museum of fine and decorative arts and historic artifacts. It is the third oldest museum in Maine. The Saco Museum was founded in March of 1866 as the York Institute by a group of men from widely different backgrounds, who shared an interest in the pursuit of knowledge. Their pledge was that none of them should die in possession of an uncommunicated historical fact. The stated purpose of the organization was "to promote the study of Natural History; encourage Science and Art; also to collect and preserve whatever relates to the Natural and Civic history of York County."
The first president of the Institute was John Johnson, who had been an early pioneer in the science of photography and was respected for his important chemical experiments and scientific lectures. The first members included the artist Charles Henry Granger, (Click here for more information about Granger's work and some examples) author and publisher John S. Locke, and the noted historian John Wingate Thornton, as well as prominent doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. By the 1880's the Institute could boast of members from across the United States, and corresponding members from all over the world, including Dom Pedro, the Emperor of Brazil. In 1891 the Institute accepted women as members, and soon welcomed the celebrated author Sarah Orne Jewett to the membership.