Historic Biddeford clock tower to be preserved after years in disrepair, litigation

Posted Dec. 09, 2013, at 7:51 p.m.
One of the faces on the clock of the Lincoln Mill tower in Biddeford is shown recently.
Courtesy of Journal Tribune
One of the faces on the clock of the Lincoln Mill tower in Biddeford is shown recently.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — For more than 150 years, the bell of the clock tower that sat atop the Lincoln Mill chimed throughout the day, letting workers know when their shift began and ended — and marking every hour.

Throughout the city, people could look at the tower’s four-faced clock to note what time it was.

But six years ago, after embittered litigation, and to the dismay of many, the former owners of the Lincoln Mill took down the clock tower that had loomed above the city since 1853.

They sold off pieces of the tower including the several-thousand-pound bell and the weathervane.

The impressive tower has languished beside the mill it once topped since, slowly deteriorating and with an unknown fate.

But recently, thanks to the efforts of Mayor Alan Casavant, industrial historian George Collord, Scott Joslin of the Pepperell Mill Campus and the current Lincoln Mill owner, Odyssey Properties LLC, a plan has been devised that will allow for the restoration and preservation of the clock tower.

Odyssey Properties Principal Greg Bennett said he is “absolutely” pleased that the clock tower will be saved and that litigation between the city and Odyssey has been resolved.

Following a complaint to the Biddeford Code Enforcement Office regarding the condition of the structure, the city filed a civil complaint against Odyssey. A judgment in favor of the city was rendered Oct. 30, said City Attorney Keith Jacques.

As a result, on Dec. 1, Bennett was preparing to take the tower apart and get rid of it.

“Last Sunday, it was going in the dumpsite,” he said. Then, “literally, at the last minute, they put this [deal] together.”

Collord, with the assistance of Joslin, purchased the tower.

Joslin said he hopes that tower will be part of a multi-faceted mill museum that the Biddeford Mill Museum and others are developing.

While it’s still to be determined where the clock tower’s final resting place will be, Joslin said he envisions it will end up in a place of prominence where it can be viewed and enjoyed by many.

Collord said he became aware and concerned about the fate of the clock tower a couple of years ago.

Collord, who has been interested in history since he was a child, specializes in industrial history.

Over the past couple of years, he set up his collection of industrial artifacts in one of the buildings of the Pepperell Mill Campus, and from time to time, he would drive past the clock tower.

“For the last year or two,” said Collord, “every time I went by [the Lincoln tower], I said, ‘When is something going to be done about that?’”

Then, about a week ago, when he saw the Dumpsters by the tower and realized the iconic artifact was about to be lost forever, he and Joslin approached Mayor Casavant and asked for his help to stop that from happening.

According to Collord, Joslin and Bennett, it was Casavant’s intervention that brought the deal together and a positive resolution to which all parties agreed.

Collord said he wanted to save the tower because “it’s a symbol of Biddeford.

“It watched out over the city of Biddeford for more than 150 years. It’s the most valuable piece of architecture in the entire city, and it nearly got chopped up.

“I’m very grateful to Chris [Betjemann] and Greg [Bennett] that they worked with me,” said Collord.

Betjemann is the other principal of Odyssey Properties.

The immediate plan, said Collord, is to put in windows and seal up any cracks to prevent water and snow from entering the clock tower and prevent further deterioration.

Over the winter and spring, he said, he will make structural repairs, so that more damage isn’t done when the clock tower is eventually moved. Collord has until May to move the structure.

Meanwhile, he and Joslin plan to start a Kickstarter campaign to get funds to be used for the repairs.

More funds will be needed for the restoration of the clock tower.

When all is finished, said Collord, he plans to have a working clock, with a bell and weathervane — he’s hoping he can get the original pieces — and to restore to near mint condition an iconic piece of Biddeford’s past.

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