If you ask any longtime resident of Central Maine to name off the biggest local news stories from the last few decades, there are a few that will instantly come to mind.  The killing of Deputy Corporal Cole, the floods of 1987, and the fire that destroyed the Edwards Mill in November of 1989.

This month marks the 34th anniversary of that devastating fire that destroyed the century-old mill complex that sat on the banks of the Kennebec River in Augusta.

The Edwards Mill Complex

For nearly a century and a half, the mill complex dominated the banks of the Kennebec River at the base of Sand Hill.

According to a posting by Archive Grid, the cotton mill first opened in 1845.  In 1868, the mill was purchased by Sprague Manufacturing Company, who worked to expand the mill.  By the 1880s, the mill was one of the largest businesses in the Augusta area, employing over 2,000 people.

By World War II, the mill was one of the major clothing suppliers for the United States military.

Following the conclusion of the war in 1945, the mill was purchased by Bates Manufacturing Company.  It became known as the company's Edwards Division.

The post goes on to explain:

later buildings purchased by Augusta Development Corporation in order to prevent the company's closing; in 1973 mill again purchased by Edwards Manufacturing Company, a division of Miller Industries

Sadly, the mill closed in the early 1980s.

The came the fire.


The Edwards Mill building falls victim to a fire

On the evening of November 30th, 1989, the mill complex caught fire.  At the time, it had been used as a warehouse to store cotton.  This, along with the oil and grease from the old mill machinery, helped the fire along.

The KJ reports that the fire was so intense that it was visible from 20 miles away.

When the fire started, there were workers in the building.  Fortunately, everyone escaped.

Because of the freezing temps, the water sprayed on the building turned to icicles.


Check out this video from the fire:

The mill site and Mill Park today

Today, the majority of the space that had been taken up by the mill complex has been turned into a beautiful park.  The park is used for many community events throughout the year, including a regular farmer's market, fairs, festivals, and a concert series.

The one remaining building from the mill complex has recently been renovated and is now a bagel shop.

What local news stories do you remember most?  Let us know by sending us a message inside our radio station app.

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