EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — During its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, The Hamlet motel and restaurant was a gathering place for hunters, snowmobilers town residents, a thriving business among many thriving businesses.
Today, the football-field-length building is a collection of steel beams, metal siding, sheetrock and debris. Workers who last month began gutting the place, a fixture at 117 Main St. for almost 50 years, will finish the job in about a week. It is a victim of the layoff of 212 workers from the Main Street paper mill on Feb. 6, said Selectman Clint Linscott, who has owned the building for a dozen years.
An auto mechanic and body repairman who owns Linscott’s Auto Body shop at 68 Main St., Linscott said that the layoffs and temporary shutdown at the new Great Northern Paper Co. LLC mill forced him to make a decision he had struggled with for a few years. The recent closure of Soup to Nuts restaurant, which had been located at 117 Main St. since 2009, also hurt.
“After a half a million dollar investment, something that has turned into a thing that costs me money every week has to come down,” Linscott said Friday. “It is to protect all the buildings I have left. We have to stop the bleeding.”
“Over the years, the mill has come and gone,” said Linscott’s wife, former school board member Amy Linscott. “We have slowly lost our population, and you have to remember that the building was full eight or nine years ago. There was a bookstore, photography studio, bar and restaurant within the last eight years that aren’t there anymore. It [the building] is not worth it to have anymore.”
The building’s remaining occupant, Forget Me Not flower shop, has moved to another minimall that Linscott owns at 112 Main St. It joins Gail’s Grooming, a refugee from 73 Main St., another Linscott building that is being razed.
“He has both of those minimalls, he had all these spaces that he could rent and he only had enough [tenants] to fill one mini-mall,” said Amy Linscott. “There is really no businesses there.”
The buildings being razed “had been costing me about $1,000 a week,” Linscott said.
Mill officials said at the time of the layoffs that they hoped to devise new energy-saving strategies and restart the mill in 16 weeks or sooner. A bill that would allow GNP to sell electricity in conjunction with Brookfield Asset Management, which owns three dams that power the mill, is pending before the Legislature.
Bill advocates say that the initiative would give GNP a revenue stream that would make the mill more competitive. In the meantime, town officials are considering laying off town workers, and nothing will save The Hamlet building.
The razing “entails stripping wood structure out of the building first, and then the outer structure of the building, the shell, which is metal. That is being taken down section by section,” said James “Ziggy” Bernardini, who is working with Maine Carpentry of East Millinocket on the demolition.
Bernardini said he has some regret about doing the work because he remembers what the building once was. The Linscotts said they share the feeling.
“Mostly people understand that it’s the times, but you do have a few people who have been quite negative,” Amy Linscott said, “It is sad. And I get that it is sad, but there is really no businesses there.”