2017-06-04 / Front Page

Biddeford Mills Museum receives major gift for new exhibit

By ALAN BENNETT
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — A long-standing wish to create a permanent installation reflecting the history of Biddeford’s Pepperell Mill will soon become reality, thanks to a generous donation from a local bank’s foundation.
 
The Biddeford Mills Museum, which conducts public tours of the city’s Pepperell Mill buildings, has received $30,000 from the Bangor Savings Bank Foundation to construct a 1,500-square-foot exhibition in the grand foyer of the Pepperell Mill Campus in Biddeford.
 
The space, known as the Pepperell Center, already serves as an event space and entryway into the 120 businesses that now populate the former mill building as part of developer Doug Sanford’s transformation of the campus.

Don Guillerault, a tour guide for the Biddeford Mills Museum, is a former employee of the Pepperell Mill of 43 years. Guillerault looks out over the mill complex through a tunnel connecting two sections of the structure in this photo from November. JOURNAL TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO/ALAN BENNETTDon Guillerault, a tour guide for the Biddeford Mills Museum, is a former employee of the Pepperell Mill of 43 years. Guillerault looks out over the mill complex through a tunnel connecting two sections of the structure in this photo from November. JOURNAL TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO/ALAN BENNETTDon Guillerault, a former mill employee of 43 years, remembers the Pepperell Mill was “a real hub of employment,” when the textile industry flourished in the city. But with the advent of electricity, the mill’s importance, and the textile industry, began to dwindle as southern cotton producers no longer needed to send their fibers to the north for textile furnishing.
 
The exhibition, which Guillerault hopes will be installed by May 2018, will honor the mill’s history in Biddeford from its foundation in 1843 until its closure in 2009.
 
He said a number of pieces will be incorporated into the fixture, including pull-out murals of the Pepperell and neighboring Laconia Mill buildings, the Saco River that runs alongside them and the machinery that kept them in operation for more than 150 years.
 
A chronology of important dates and events in the mill’s history will also be put on display — set along an illustrated depiction of the Saco River — as will numerous archival photos of the buildings that will adorn the walls in the Pepperell Center and in the refurbished mill buildings themselves.
 
The display has been the ultimate dream for the museum’s staff — the “Mill Alumni,” as they call themselves — and board of directors, who say it will bring the museum and the mill’s significance to Biddeford to the forefront.
 
“It gives me no greater pleasure than to see this thing come to fruition,” Guillerault said Wednesday. “It’s what we’ve all be working for.”
 
Bob Montgomery-Rice, Bangor Savings Bank president and chief executive officer said the bank is proud to support the museum and its mission to preserve the history and stories of Biddeford’s mills.The “cut and sew” room of the Pepperell Mill, a stop along the Biddeford Mills Museum tour, was the final stop for textiles before shipping. JOURNAL TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO/ALAN BENNETT
The “cut and sew” room of the Pepperell Mill, a stop along the Biddeford Mills Museum tour, was the final stop for textiles before shipping. JOURNAL TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO/ALAN BENNETT  
“It’s important to tell the story of Maine’s mills. “They were the driving force of our economy, providing jobs and growth in Maine,” he said in a release Tuesday. “The people that worked at these mills — their strong work ethic and pride in craftsmanship — truly helped to make this state what it is today.”

Scott Joslin, chief operating officer for the Pepperell Mill Campus, said the development team’s goal was to help the museum get off the ground and that the bank’s gift will complete those efforts.
 
“It has been our quest from the beginning to provide the environment and exhibit material base to foster the startup of the museum,” he said in a release. “As a museum board member, I am really excited about the Bangor Savings Bank Foundation gift, as it completes the amount of funding required to open the new exhibit.”
 
Guillerault said he’s mostly excited to share the history of Biddeford’s mills with the public, who he said will gain a better understanding of the reasons people worked in them for so long.
 
“That’s our main goal and purpose, to give (people) a feeling of what it was like and where people came from, their desire to earn a living in America and raise a family,” he said.
 
— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com.

Return to top