Donate to the restoration of the Biddeford Mill Clock

To the editor,

I am moved to learn of the circuitous trail starting with the near destruction, followed by the valiant rescue by a handful of devoted citizens, and now the restoration of the Biddeford Mill Clock being undertaken by the Friends of the Biddeford Mill Clock Tower, which is one of the most positive and dedicated groups that has ever taken up a call to action, although still numbering just a “handful” of members. Small does not seem to be a bad thing because they are smart, savy folks who are working with the city, engaging historic preservation professionals for advice, and listening to everyone who has something to offer while applauding the heroics of people and groups who kept the Clock with us for the decade before they formed the Friends earlier this year to bring the Mill Clock back to its former glory at last.

The 26,000 pound Mill Clock sat on its lofty perch atop the Lincoln Mill until it was removed in 2007 by order of the Biddeford Code Enforcement due to perceived hazards. That Mill is now undergoing a transformation by its new owner, the dynamic developer Tim Harrington and his experienced partner Eric Chinburg. Mr Harrington never owned the Mill Clock since it was removed before his purchase of the Lincoln Mill. He and Mr Chinburg are transforming the former textile mill into 148 luxury apartments and a boutique hotel with a rooftop swimming pool. Plans include social and work spaces, a fitness gym, and the Batson River Social Club.

One might call the chainsaw removal of the Mill Clock a rape. With consent of the previous owner, the weathervane and bell were sold and shipped out of state and it was clumsily brought to street level.

Can we dream of returning the Clock to its original perch? Perhaps. If not, a lovely site on Biddeford’s Riverwalk has been negotiated with the City.

But who should pay for the restoration? Of the tragic fire within the sacred Notre Dame Cathedral, Nicole Bacharan wrote, “It was a moment people truly shared, that said something important about what it meant to be French. It was a sudden violent destruction of something people hold very dear.” The destruction of the Mill Clock happened over several decades but it’s tragic deterioration following its near demise is something that we all truly share, understanding that it was the heart and soul of the workers and their families who built this city. Although competitive grants such as the NEH’s Save America’s Treasures are available, I am suggesting that we all truly share the cost of its resurrection as Notre Dame surely will rise from its ashes through the efforts of Parisians.

If your roots are in Biddeford, I need say no more. If you’re from away, say from Portland or Kennebunkport if not farther, or much much farther, imagine bringing friends and family to the Lincoln Mill’s lovely facilities, visiting Biddeford’s other lovely restaurants and shops, galleries and gathering places, including our beloved City Theater, and showing them the historic Mill Clock and the Brick on a Pathway Through Time with your name on it as one who cared. The Heart of Biddeford, our nonprofit, is accepting your purchase of a brick, or of a donation of any size that will be memorialized on a plaque. We need just 2700 of you to purchase the smaller brick to make this happen in 2020 — the price of a meal for three to five diners, depending on your choice of eatery. Please consider it.

Sara Lambert Bloom

Biddeford

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