This post is part of Portraits of Place.
Thousands of people worked in the mills during the day and lit up Main Street at night. The Biddeford mills were the first in the United States to mass produce any product – but it was the history, the many stories lived by the people in the 1800s and 1900s, that captured my imagination.
I once thought the mills were old buildings that had no past, no present, no future. Then I took a tour and saw the North Dam Mill firsthand, and I realized what beauty and stories were held within those brick structures.
What stood out to me the most were the hardwood floors. They were old and worn down, but beautifully placed throughout the mill, and the wooden landscape seemed to stretch on forever. Each piece of wood was its own map and had its own unique character. Every board had a pattern worn into it, which made them fascinating to look at.
My careful footsteps disturbed mounds of flock still settled on the floor. The fluff whooshed around my feet, reminding me of all the people who once packed in the mills, swirling through their busy days. The cracks and dents, overly worn areas and gouges, retold the stories lived by those individuals who worked in this place.
These scarred and scuffed pathways were traveled on for years and years and miles and miles and the routes are embedded in the floor of the mill. I thought about how the interior of the building almost looks preserved for a specific reason; how someday there will be other lives passing through, leaving their traces criss-crossed in the boards.
Being in a building where so much history took place was amazing. I hope that one day the routes that I take throughout my life will be significant to another person in some way, either by how they approach certain situations or how they view the lives around them. Looking back, I realize that I am part of the story told by the grooves and creases; that I added my own marks to the floors of the North Dam Mill that day.
Post and photo by Brooke Boucher. This post is one 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.