In 2012, I teamed again with my colleagues at Sutherland Conservation and Consulting on the documentation of the former Kezar Falls Woolen Mills in Kezar Falls, ME. I’m always grateful for the chance to work with Amy Cole Ives and her staff, who come up with fascinating projects and do great work. I was happy to do the large-format, HABS/HAER photography that accompanied their historic narrative for a Maine Historic Building Record documentation.
Upper Dam looking upstream
The Project The village of Kezar Falls is located on the south side of the Ossippee River close to the New Hampshire border. The village is a part of the Town of Parsonsfield, which became the owner of the former Kezar Falls Woolen Mill after the last private owner of the mill, Robinson Manufacturing, abandoned the mill in 2005 and stopped paying its taxes. This is an extremely rural part of Maine, with a very small industrial and commercial tax base; the loss of this mill hit the Town very hard. The Town hoped to use the mill complex as a spur to development, and received a grant from the EPA to carry out the environmental clean-up of the mill, which was determined a brownfield site. The original woolen mill in Kezar Falls was built in 1880. The present mill complex was built in stages from the late 19th century into the late 1920s. At the time of our documentation, it consisted of multiple buildings, including several that were connected in a linear fashion–the main mill building, a 1929 concrete addition, a machine shop, a wood shop, and a generator building. Separate buildings included an office, a boiler building, and a picker house. In addition, the site included a small hydroelectric powerhouse, which received its water by way of a series of two dams on the Ossippee River: an upstream one that directed the flow to one side of a small island, and one at the downstream end of the island that directed the flow into a raceway leading to the powerhouse. While the powerhouse was not a part of our project, and thus I couldn’t go inside, I did record the water control system including the dams, the power canal, and the exterior of the powerhouse.
The Photography Several factors made this a challenging project. First, I did the photographs in the middle of August, and it was hot. Really hot. It was hot enough that I would not leave the extra box of negatives in the car for fear that the negatives would be ruined. Second, the condition of the buildings was, in many places, very poor. The buildings had not been maintained for several years, and water had got into the buildings. Many of the wooden floors were buckled, making their stability questionable, while the concrete floors had a lot of standing water, with moss and molds making things very slippery. Third, it was just a large and complicated series of buildings. Both the main mill and the 1929 concrete addition had four stories, with a lot of unique spaces, all of which had to be recorded. Given the way that they had been connected, it often was difficult to tell which building I was in. Over the course of a day and a half, however, I was able to get a very comprehensive series of photographs of the entire mill complex, interiors and exteriors. I’m really very happy with the way that the negatives came out.
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