Click here to see a larger version of this photo. Photo by Travis Leblond.
I closed my eyes and started walking into the bowels of the earth.
I didn’t know exactly what I smelled. A mixture of musty old rock and stagnant water, I guessed. The brightly lit room slowly turned dark as I gradually made my way down the rickety stairs. The whole tour seemed to change, as an eerie feeling came over my body.
Where we were heading was somewhere special, one of a kind. This place was the underground caverns of the North Dam Mill.
The North Dam Mill is well known throughout Southern Maine. Nearly a century ago it was thriving in the textile industry. One of the most productive mills in New England, hundreds of people called it their workplace. The Mill kept Biddeford together and stimulated the economy.
As our tour guide filled us in on the uniqueness of the underground caverns we were standing in, I couldn’t help looking around and admiring its greatness. I had never seen something so dark and creepy. I loved it.
Creaking boards paved a path deeper into the caverns. My imagination went wild as I thought about where they could lead. I imagined people building this structure nearly a century ago and how incredible it must have been.
These rare caverns made me realize how great the city of Biddeford really is. The mills are so uniquely structured and the engineering is amazing. As we exited the caverns, our tour guide informed us that the floor we were standing on was actually hanging from the ceiling above. I had never heard of such a thing before and seeing such an unbelievable engineering feat like that made me thankful for the experience.
I hope that as the mills are renovated and businesses start to fill the empty spaces, the North Dam Mill will once again be the centerpiece of Biddeford.
Post by Tyler Audie. This post is the first in a series written by seniors from Biddeford High School for Portraits of Place. Three years ago, English Teacher Carolyn Gosselin began collaborating with the Heart of Biddeford, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the renewal of Biddeford’s Main Street area. Since then, youth voices have become influential in community planning, as students discover the proud history of this evolving mill town and share their perspectives on its renaissance.