Bates Mill

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Mills and canal in c. 1915

The Bates Mill is a textile factory company founded in 1850 and located at 35 Canal Street in Lewiston, Maine. The mill served as Maine's largest employer through the 1960s, and early profits from the mill provided much of the initial capital for nearby Bates College. Currently, the mill buildings are home to several new businesses, apartments, and a small museum.


Benjamin E. Bates, founder of the Bates Mill and nearby Bates College

Benjamin E. Bates, a Boston entrepreneur, founded the textile mill in 1850 with several co-investors in the Bates Manufacturing Company. Maine Governor John Hubbard signed the incorporation act on August 16, 1850 and Mill #1 was completed in 1852. Bates built the mill in Lewiston due to its location at Lewiston Falls, which initially provided power to the mill. The Mill was operated by water power from the Androscoggin River, and combined power spinning and weaving on looms. The Mill produced textiles until the 21st century. During the American Civil War, the factory produced textiles for the Union Army with southern cotton it had stockpiled prior to the War. Thousands of immigrants from Canada and Europe immigrated to Lewiston to gain employment at the mills. In 1992, the City of Lewiston took possession of the Bates Mill Complex after years of unpaid taxes. In 2001 voters eventually decided in a referendum to sell the Complex to the owners of Platz Associates, private developers. Platz refurbished the buildings and still owns all but one of them. The mill complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.


Currently, the rehabilitated Bates Mill Complex is the site of Baxter Brewing Co., TD Bank, Androscoggin Savings Bank offices and The Symquest Group, Fishbones Casual Fine Dining Restaurant, and Museum L-A: The Story of Work and Community in Lewiston-Auburn.

On July 15, 2009, Bates Mill Building No. 5 briefly caught on fire from embers from the nearby Cowan Mill which was completely destroyed by fire. Building No.5, a 356,000-square-foot (33,100 m2) weaving shed, was designed by Albert Kahn and placed in service in 1914. The structure is currently owned by the city of Lewiston, Maine, has been vacant for several years, and is slated for demolition (as of Fall, 2009).[1]

On January 5, 2011, The Lofts at Bates Mill was awarded $5.2 million in low-income housing tax credits by the Maine State Housing Authority to convert Building No. 2 into 48 mixed-income apartments.[2] The $9.2 million project includes 33 subsidized apartments and 15 market-rate apartments. Construction began 2011 and the apartments were completed late in 2012.[3]

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