December 9, 2013

Biddeford clock tower’s number not up yet

A Portland antiques lover posts a $5,000 bond and buys the structure for $1 to halt its demolition.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A historic Biddeford clock tower slated for demolition was saved at the eleventh hour by a local history buff.

click image to enlarge

A historic clock tower rests on the ground next to the Lincoln Mill building in Biddeford, which it sat atop for 111 years before it was removed for safety reasons.

Gregory Rec/2013 Press Herald file

For the past six years, the clock tower has deteriorated on the ground next to the Lincoln Mill building, which it sat atop for 111 years before it was removed for safety reasons.

Once an iconic timepiece, it became the bane of residents, who called it an eyesore, and city officials, who said its location violated the building code.

A court order called for the mill owners to remove the clock tower from the side of the building by the end of November, said Scott Joslin, chief operating officer of the Pepperell Mill Campus, about a half-mile away from the Lincoln Mill.

Two weeks ago, he said, dumpsters were on-site, ready to collect the sawed-up remnants of the structure.

Enter George Collord.

A lover of antiques, the Portland man learned of the clock tower’s fate and approached the owners of the Pepperell Mill Campus for help halting the plan, Joslin said.

Collord then approached Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant to see if enforcement of the court order could be delayed.

By posting a $5,000 bond to ensure its removal – and paying $1 to the owners of the Lincoln Mill for the purchase of the clock – Collord got the city’s approval to leave the clock tower where it is for the winter and take it way in the spring.

The hope, Joslin said, is for it eventually to be restored and displayed in a museum of mill artifacts planned for the Pepperell Mill Campus.

Jeff Cabral, president of the Biddeford Mills Museum board, said it could be years before the opening of the museum, which would display old photographs, machinery and documents from the mills. The board has yet to settle on a location within the mill district.

Still, Cabral is glad to see a plan for the clock tower’s preservation.

“There was an opportunity for history to be lost, but, luckily, somebody stepped in and made sure that didn’t happen,” he said.

Cabral said its restoration symbolized the rebirth of the mill town.

Before the winter, Joslin said, the clock tower will be sealed and receive some remedial repairs to prevent further deterioration. In the spring, he said, the structure will be shored up so it can be moved by crane from the Lincoln Mill to the Pepperell Mill Campus.

Joslin said a fundraising campaign is underway to help pay for the removal and eventual restoration. He didn’t know how much that would cost, but said the restoration “could approach six figures.”

Joslin lauded Casavant and the city for their cooperation and swift action to prevent the demolition of the clock tower.

Not many clock towers like it still exist, he said. And before people commonly wore watches, it played a vital role in the lives of the people who lived and worked in the city.

“It’s really one of the centerpieces of Biddeford, or certainly was,” he said.

 

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com

Twitter: lesliebridgers

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