|Undated post card showing Bates Mill and canal, Lewiston, Maine (from Wikimedia)|
|Outflow canal, Upton Mills, Mill St., Lewiston (Kodachrome 64 film, Rolleiflex camera, 75mm lens)|
Northern New England (USA) is full of former mill towns with amazing 1800s brick mill buildings. Most of these were built in the early- to mid-1800s on rivers, where water power could power the machinery. Most of these mills spun cotton or wool into textiles, while other factories produced shoes. These industries represent the early flourishing of the industrial revolution in the United States.
The New England States and northern New York provided a perfect geology for our early industrial expansion because of the steep terrain, dependable rainfall, and hard rock geology. Rivers flowed down over numerous waterfalls where water wheels could be placed and a factory established. Flowing from hard rock terrain, the rivers flowed clean, and hydro projects were not plagued with silt and mud accumulation. Bustling towns grew up around these factories. Being close to the coast, merchants shipped manufactured textiles and other goods to ports like Portland, Portsmouth, Boston, or Providence for transshipment to Europe.
|1910 photograph of the Androscoggin River (from Wikimedia)|
Lewiston is the largest city in Androscoggin County, Maine. This part of Maine was populated by Quebec families and was incorporated as "Lewistown" in 1795. With the development of mills and the arrival of the railroad, the town boomed economically during the mid-late 1800s, attracting thousands of Quebecers to migrate. French is still commonly spoken.
The textile industry's profits declined greatly after World War I. Starting in the 1950s, Lewiston's mills started to close (an example of early outsourcing, where textile companies shifted manufacturing to the US South, where labor was cheap and non-unionized).
The status of these huge mill buildings has been fraught with economic and historic preservation issues. According to Wikipedia:
After a difficult economic period in the 1980s that saw high unemployment and downtown stagnation, several key events have led to economic and cultural growth, including the transformation of the historic Bates Mill Complex. Because the city took over the complex in 1992 after back taxes went unpaid, years of taxpayer frustration in the city's need to maintain the 1.1-million-square-foot (100,000 m2) behemoth led to two referenda (one non-binding vote, the other binding). Voters soundly supported the need to pursue redevelopment by maintaining the property and selling it to private developers. In 2001, the city sold three mill buildings to local developers. In 2003, Platz Associates sold the Bates Mill Complex, with the exception of Mill 5 and a small support building. For the next four years, a number of business enterprises expanded after Platz redeveloped the mill building. The Bates Mill complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 2010.
A relative who lives in Lewiston knew the manager of one of the redevelopment projects. His foundation intended to find new tenants for one of the magnificent old Bates Mill buildings. She made the connection and we all had the chance to tour the building and learn about the development plans. He generously let me take photographs inside.
|Bates Mill #1 or #5, Canal Street, Lewiston (Ilford XP2 film, Rolleiflex 3.5E Xenotar, 1 sec. exposure)|
These views of the cavernous halls give you a sense of the size of this building. Iron posts support huge timber joists, and the tongue-and-groove flooring felt solid enough to support tons of machinery. This was construction from an era when we were proud of what we built, and it was made to last decades.
This photograph shows how the iron posts hold up the ceiling joists. The fluorescent light fixtures would have been a post-World War II addition. The outer wall were brick bearing walls.
|Sink for workmen (or ladies) to clean up|
|Hot water boilers|
|Former cooler or freezer (unknown purpose)|
What an impressive building. I could spend hours wandering around and photographing the structure. The machinery had been removed long before we were there, and none of it was left.
|Undated photograph of Androscoggin Mill, photographed by Drew & Worthing, 22 Tremont Street, Boston (from Historic New England, photograph number OVP0241)|
After our tour, I drove a short distance west to the old Androscoggin Mills. At its peak, this was another massive complex of buildings, roads, and canals. I do not know how many of the buildings are still standing or which one I tried to check out. The one I approached was locked, but several out buildings were open or partly collapsing.
I tried the door, but it was jammed or locked. And the signs of a security service were a bit ominous.
|Heat exchanger? Power House, Androscoggin Mill, Lewiston|
|Boiler in power house, Androscoggin Mill, Lewiston|
This has been a very short tour of the two of the mills in Lewiston, I have more photographs from other towns along the Androscoggin River, but I need to scan them. Some are 120 size Kodachrome transparencies, which are mounted and do not fit in my scanner. A project for the future...
The black and white photographs above are from Ilford XP2 film exposed with a Rolleiflex 3.5E camera. I exposed the film at EI=400. Most exposures were 1 sec. long, and I placed the camera on beams or furniture to brace it. The XP2 has a long tonal range and is very sharp, perfect for this type of subject matter. Problem: when I recently looked at the negatives, they were deep purple color and seemed to be fading. Possibly the film had not been fixed properly. I decided to scan them before they deteriorated further. This is a chromogenic film (like color print film but monochrome only) and is usually considered to be less stable than traditional silver-based black and white film.