Friends of the Historic Biddeford Mill Clock Tower and others watch as the 1853 tower is moved to a new temporary location at the Lincoln Mill in Biddeford on Friday morning, Jan. 3. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — As the Biddeford Mill Clock Tower was lowered by a crane to its new resting place inside the fence on the Lincoln Mill property on Friday morning, Jan. 3 the voice of one of the onlookers could be heard murmuring one word, “beautiful.”

The clock tower that once kept city residents on time for 14 decades — on time for work, for chores, for church or for school — is as pretty as a picture in many ways; it has a symmetry borne of craftsmanship that is pleasing to the eye, despite the blemish of weather and years of neglect.

Now Friends of the Historic Biddeford Mill Clock Tower are looking to restoration and to the time when the refurbished clock tower, complete with time piece and bell, will grace the city once again.

It was moved on Friday from a soon-to-be expanded parking lot at the Pepperell Mill, to a corner of a parking lot at the Lincoln Mill — a temporary stop on its eventual journey, once refurbished, to the Biddeford RiverWalk.

Dan LeBlond, who re-built the windows of the clock tower several years ago and removed about 350 pounds of pigeon droppings from inside, remembers the bell tolling the time when he was a small boy.

A crane from The Cote Corporation of Lewiston gently lowers the Biddeford Mill Clock Tower to the ground at the Lincoln Mill on Friday. Tammy Wells Photo

He got to ring it, when doing the window work.

“I grabbed the clapper and struck the hour,” LeBlond said.

Ringing the bell was an employee assignment when the mills were operating, and the names of those who did so are carved inside the clock tower.

By the 1850s, there were three textile manufacturing companies in operation in Biddeford: York Manufacturing, Laconia and Pepperell, according to Louise Merriman, co-chair of the clock tower friends group.

Altogether the three mills employed 3,500 people, were comprised of 11 mill buildings, operated 70 boarding houses and produced more than 25 million yards of cotton fabric annually, she said.

The Pepperell Manufacturing Company built the clock tower in 1853, Merriman said. The clock tower without the bell, clock and weathervane, weighs 26,000 pounds.

“It was a magnificent piece of architecture — unique in mill clock towers since it had eight sides,” she said. The clock dials are each seven-feet high.

The clock tower was installed on a pitched roof building in back of the Lincoln Mill that was also built in 1853, Merriman said.

In the 1870s, pitched roof buildings were deemed a fire hazard, and so the clock tower was moved to the top of the Lincoln Mill.

It was removed from the Lincoln Mill in 2007 – the arrow weathervane, clock and bell had been sold earlier – placed on the ground, and there it remained, neglected and deteriorating.

According to a May 26, 2014, Portland Press Herald story by Gillian Graham, the clock tower was days away from demolition after the city got a court order that fined the 2014 owners of the Lincoln Mill $100 a day if it was not removed. Dumpsters were on-site to collect the sawed-up remnants of the clock tower, Graham wrote, when historian George Collard stepped in. He bought the clock tower from the owners of the Lincoln Mill for $1, then posted a $5,000 bond to ensure its removal. Eventually, it was moved to the Pepperell Mill Campus parking lot — and then on Friday, to its new location.

Collard said the original bell cracked in 1894 and was replaced. The clock was an E. Howard Model 31, time and strike, he said.

Merriman, Friends co-chair Sandra Schuld, Collard, LeBlond, Mayor Alan Casavant and others stood by Friday morning as workers from The Cote Corporation of Lewiston carefully prepared the clock tower for its airborne journey from one parking lot to another other. The company, said Merriman, provided the move at cost to the nonprofit Friends group.

The group is appreciative to Doug Sanford at the Pepperell Mill Campus complex, she said, for allowing the clock tower to stay there for the last several years, and to Eric Chinburg and Tim Harrington for the new space in the Lincoln Mill parking lot.

The work to fund restoration continues. Overall, the group aims to raise $275,000. An online effort is looking to raise $50,000 of that. To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-the-historic-biddeford-mill-clock-tower.

As well, people can “Buy a Brick” to help with restoration. A 4- by 8-inch brick is $100, an 8- by 8-inch brick, $250. Buyers should include the size they want, the name they’d like engraved on the brick and their check made out to Heart of Biddeford, designated for the mill clock tower restoration and mailed or dropped off at 205 Main St., Biddeford 04005.

Merriman and others are looking to the future, when the clock tower is restored and in a place of honor along the RiverWalk.

“Now, we’ll treasure it and honor it and put in a place of respect,” she said.

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