ABOUT OUR TOWN
From the time of incorporation (February 25, 1808) to the present, the town of Alfred has established some well-rooted historic and archeological significances. Evidence to that includes, but is not limited to, the listing of the Alfred Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places. The District is in the center of the village, located southwest to northeast on Route 202 and 4 (Oak Street) and along Kennebunk Road and Saco Road. The village and buildings within the district have changed little in the last one hundred years. The National Historic Register lists 48 homes in the district.
Besides the Alfred Historic District, the Alfred Historical Committee has identified an additional 45 buildings outside the District as being of historical importance. Many, possibly all, of these buildings may be eligible for nomination to The National Register of Historic Places. Further study will be needed for sufficient documentation.
Alfred was home for nearly a century and a half to the root community of Shakers in Maine. While Shakerism came to Alfred in the 1780's, a decade after it arrived in the United States, it was 1793 when the community here gathered under the Shaker covenant. When the Shakers left Alfred in 1931, they merged into the Shaker village at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, rejuvenating it and enabling it to survive as the last community of living Shakers in the world. The Shaker mark, legacy, influence, and memory in Alfred are strong and connect it to a significant national heritage which is celebrated at Alfred Shaker Museum in the Shaker Hill historic district.
Physical And Geographic Setting
Alfred, Shiretown of York County, is located at the geographic center of the fastest growing county in Maine . The community is predominately rural; with a "classic New England village" that is both a historic and a contemporary town center.
Ports, cities and seacoast resorts lie to the Atlantic side of Alfred. The beaches of York, Ogunquit, Wells and Old Orchard are only a half-hours drive, yet Alfred, located inland, is spared heavy summer traffic. To the south are Kittery and Portsmouth with long shipbuilding traditions. To the northeast, lies Portland , with its many employment opportunities, financial institutions, and cultural attractions. Bordering Alfred on the southwest is Sanford , a major employment and service center for Alfred residents. The town's other immediate neighbors are Shapleigh to the west, Waterboro to the north, and Lyman to the east. Kennebunk shares a small segment of Alfred's southern border.
The town's topography, major physical features and soils were largely shaped by glaciers that receded from the Alfred area some 14,000 years ago. They created the town's hills, valleys, flatlands and surface waters and helped to shape variations in soils types, vegetative cover, groundwater characteristics, and the general suitability of areas for development and other land uses.
The town's major lakes and ponds are Shaker Pond, Middle Branch Pond, Round Pond and Estes Lake. Major rivers and streams are the Middle Branch of the Mousam River , Littlefield River, Hay Brook and Trafton Brook, of which all drain to the south.
The town's 18,000 acres are divided almost equally into two distinct geographic areas. Southern Alfred is generally a flat plain that extends northward to the village, with elevations 200-250 feet above sea level. This plain is actually the inner margin of the continental shelf and is part of Maine 's coastal lowland area. The predominant soils type of this area is sand and gravel deposits.
Northern Alfred lies at the edge of Maine 's hilly inland belt. Elevations rise abruptly at Bracket Hill (480 feet) and Yeaton Hill (600 feet) and extend northward through the town. The highest elevation is 1,020 feet on Fort Ridge at the Shapleigh Town line. Soils in this area are predominately glacial tills.
Climate actually varies significantly between these two areas of town, with the inland areas sometimes warmer in the summer and colder in the winter than areas closer to the coast. Depending on prevailing winds, the two areas periodically experience contrasts in the type of precipitation and visibility conditions.
The first humans to inhabit Alfred arrived about 12,000 years ago, remaining relatively undisturbed until the arrival of the first European settlers. Colonization of the Maine coast started in 1622, but conflict between the English, French and Indians hampered settlement of the interior.
Simeon Coffin, from Newbury Massachusetts , was Alfred's first known settler. In 1764 he built a wigwam near the north side of Shaker Pond, which was then called Massabesic. Substantial home construction began soon after; Alfred's first two-story houses, the Daniel Gile homestead on Federal Street , still stands today. Within 20 years, the town had sawmills, gristmills, a brickyard, tanners and potters. The first school was started in 1770.
A thriving lumber industry developed. Many areas of virgin pine were cut for the lucrative "mast trade”. When the first growth was cut, prime land became available for crops and pasture, and an agricultural economy developed.
The area that is now Alfred was included in the town of Sanford , and was later known as the north parish of Sanford . Finally, the town separated from Sanford in 1794 and was named "Alfred." At that time the town had a population of about 400, including 120 taxpayers.
The Shakers became an important part of the community and built a meetinghouse in 1794 on the considerable land they held between Shaker Pond and Bunganut Pond. At its zenith, the Shaker community had more than 50 buildings. Eventually the Shakers went into a decline and in 1931 the 21 remaining members left to join the Sabbathday community in New Gloucester. The property was sold to the Brothers of Christian Instruction, who own it today.
Nearly all the older principal buildings in Alfred village were built between 1800 and 1820. In 1806 Alfred became the Shiretown of York County, and the County Courthouse was constructed in the village. Professional men moved to town and built many of the substantial buildings that now comprise the Village historic district.
Alfred flourished between 1830 and 1854,during an era historians call "Maine's golden age". Before and after the Civil War, Alfred suffered a moderate decline, due in part to western migration and a decline in the lumber industry. Alfred, however, did not suffer the kind of exodus experienced by other Maine towns. Its position as county seat helped it to retain a healthy population of professionals and the service businesses that supported them. The town remained a trade center with a relatively stable agricultural economy.
Besides mills, industrial development never occurred in the town to any degree. By not being dependent on any one economic sector, the town has escaped the effects of sharp changes in the business cycle and, as discussed above, the population shifts that have marked the history of many Maine towns of similar size.
The railroad reached Alfred from Waterboro in 1864 and was completed to Rochester , New Hampshire in 1871. During the busiest years from 1910-20, more that 30 trains a day passed through Alfred. Passenger service ended in 1949, and the last train ran in 1961.
In 1947, when widespread forest fires burned throughout Western Maine , Alfred lost 4,500 acres of woodland and two residences. The burned areas were in North Alfred and a strip along the Lyman line in the southeast part of town.
The last 50 years have been a period of relative stability, as Maine witnessed a shift from rural to more suburban and urban development. The town's population began to increase rapidly during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Because of increasing growth, the town's first Comprehensive Plan was developed in 1973. During the 1970s, the town's population increased by 56%. From 1980 to 2000 Alfred didn’t grow at the projected rate of the plan.
In 1981, the town enacted a building moratorium while the Planning Board revised the existing plan and the zoning ordinance. In 2002, Building permits were limited to 40 by the passing of a growth ordinance at the town meeting.
Alfred is fortunate to still have many links with its past that provide continuity and perspective. Perhaps the town's greatest inherited asset is an attractive village center that still serves as a focal point for town activities and commerce. Many Maine communities lost their village areas during the 20th century, and now are hoping to reestablish some sort of town center. Alfred village both helps to define the town and to provide a planning model on which to build for the future.
Alfred's Town Meeting form of government is basically the same as it was two and half centuries ago. Three selectmen and volunteers who staff town programs direct municipal operations.
Major services provided by the town are education, road maintenance, fire and rescue services and solid waste disposal. The town also supports recreational programs, social services, and cultural activities such as summer band concerts.
Major facilities are the town offices, the Alfred Elementary School (owned by RSU # 57), Troup A State Police facility, the transfer station, the public library, the fire and rescue station, all of which are located in or near the center village. Major county facilities -- the courthouse, jail and shelter -- are also located in or near the village area, as is the Federal Post Office.
The Alfred Water Company became a quasi-municipal district in 2001 and supplies water to roughly 700 residents in the village area. The York County Sheriff’s Department and the State Police provide police protection.
Alfred's character is that of a pleasant and attractive small town with a great deal of community spirit and pride. Properties in the village and throughout the rest of town are generally well maintained. Local organizations such as the American Legion and Lions Club are active in sponsoring community events and providing charitable services. There is an Alfred Summer Festival with a parade and a variety of activities. Most major holidays are commemorated with special events.
While many organized activities focus on the village and contribute to its special character, natural resources, large tracts of open space and a variety of recreational opportunities largely shape the town’s rural character. The federally owned Massabesic Experimental Forest encompasses 1,754 acres, and most of it is available for hiking, hunting, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. The town's numerous lakes, streams and wetlands support a variety of wildlife and provide recreational opportunities as well. There is ice-skating at the Brother's and on Shaker Pond and Estes Lake . Many owners of large landholdings permit public access for hunting, fishing and winter recreational activities.
With its appealing blend of village and rural living, it is no wonder that Alfred has attracted new residents. During the last 20 years, the population of Alfred has doubled. According to the 2010 Census, Alfred currently has a population of 3,019.
Rising real estate prices have placed home ownership out of the reach of many first-time homebuyers. The growing population requires added housing, education facilities, public safety and transportation facilities, and this, in turn, requires increased municipal revenues.
Although Alfred can still be described "rural" it is increasingly taking on characteristics typical of suburban communities. A high percentage of residents commute elsewhere to work, making the town a bedroom community. Much of the development that has taken place during the last 20 years has not occurred within or near the village, but in rural areas. Many traditionally rural roads have acquired a very "non-rural" appearance of houses located every few hundred feet along most of their length. Traffic on major roads is increasingly congested with noticeable rush hour conditions.
While forces of suburbanization will continue to affect Alfred in this decade and beyond, some of the negative impacts of these changes can be reduced if the town pursues policies aimed at managing growth. Change is inevitable -- as the history of Alfred shows. The overall goal of this plan is not to prevent change, but to provide a strategy for how change might be accommodated, while preserving the qualities that make Alfred an enjoyable and special place in which to live.