Posted February 25th 2011 at 6:18 am by
in 3. Portraits of Place, Voices from Biddeford

Beneath My Feet: A Mill Tour Reveals an Underground Feat of Engineering

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.

7 responses to “Beneath My Feet: A Mill Tour Reveals an Underground Feat of Engineering”

  1. Two years ago I was part of a tour of the amazing underground caverns. I was impressed that these were part of the workings of the mill. The straps that kept the looms working, were made of leather and had to be kept moist and maintained. Imagine people actually having to work down there on a daily basis. Yes; Biddeford has much more to it than meets the eye.

  2. Carolyn Gosselin says:

    I think that Tyler captured the thoughts and feelings of many Biddeford High School students on the mill tour that day. The experience impacted these young people in a variety of ways, but the one recurring comment is an expression of shock that something so “cool” exists in their hometown!

  3. Alexa Mills says:

    Tyler, this is a really interesting a beautifully-written post. You transported me to a place I’ve never been.

    I am wondering, do you have any ideas for how the building could be used today, in 2011?

  4. Ryan Cadorette says:

    This, to me, is a truly genius piece of work (the lagoon i mean) who knew that so much could be going on, underground

    well written piece.

  5. Chance Baldino says:

    Wow I had no idea that the North Damn Mill was so awsome I cant wait to go experience it firsthand when my english class goes on a field trip downtown. Thanks for informing me about whats to come great piece of writting!

  6. Cam Palardis says:

    WOW!!! i want to meet the kid who wrote this article.Great blog it was very insightful and you made it feel like i was actually there…nice work. I cant wait till we go!

  7. DJ Shannon says:

    I never knew my boy could write so well!:) I am so proud of him…This was a great piece of literature and I am truly excited to go down and visit this mill myself and see with my own two eyes what he is talking about!!! Great job ty, my buddy ole’ pal:) Heart of Biddeford<333