CAMDEN — The dust and commotion from the Knox Mill reconstruction was interesting, but not enough to keep Penobscot Bay Pilot offices there. Last weekend, we packed our papers and desks in the pickup, dumped the detritus, and drove up to 87 Elm Street, the HAV building.
It was hard to leave the ducks in the mill pond, which we watched for four years, every spring witnessing the renewal of life with ducklings being herded about by watchful parents. But the Knox Mill is now being converted to apartments, 32 of them, as the landscape of downtown Camden changes again. One by one, the businesses and nonprofits that had slowly filled the building with enterprise over the past several years left as eviction letters were received over the past winter and early spring.
The old textile mill that was turned into credit card bank offices in the early 1990s, and then slowly evolved into spaces for micro-businesses, is now going residential, as new ownership of the mill complex property sees opportunity in the housing market.
We got the message.
Today, the Pilot is happily ensconced upstairs in the HAV building, above the health food store. We are in a suite of offices that apparently were once occupied by Know Technology, and then possibly by Outward Bound, or vice versa. Businesses change and move around the community, but the faces are familiar. We miss seeing our Knox Mill buddies — Kathy’s fitness center, Outward Bound, the growing Red Zone crew, everyone downstairs at the SmokeStack, even the work guys tearing down the walls in the mill.
It was an experience occupying the mill at a time in Camden’s downtown history when residential slowly trumped commercial enterprise. The mill complex was put to many uses, and its past was evident in the thick beams that stretched throughout. For the four years the Pilot was there on the third floor — thanks to the generosity of then-owner Matt Orne — when the entire Knox Mill was a creative and innovative place, with lots of ideas discussed and small outfits being developed. We weren’t making woolen blankets, or strategizing about the currency of debt, but we were all constantly focused on making small businesses work.
As we periodically sat around the conference table, leaning back into the comfortable leather chairs (all dating from the Charlie Cawley/MBNA days), we soaked up the history on a daily basis. And we witnessed firsthand what it took to maintain the large building that sat so close to the Megunticook River and the waterfall. When Brad and Robin emptied the mill pond for maintenance of that waterfall, the ducks would wait patiently in tall grass, and we got to explore the muddy bottom where hundreds of years of industry left its mark.
But, we are in a great new space that is near Scott’s Place, K2 Music store and Reny’s, and we now overlook the always changing river of Route 1.
It’s very quiet in our new offices, which is good, because we’ve got work to do!
Stop by if you are in the neighborhood, getting a hamburger or new strings for the guitar. We are upstairs, Suite 211 and 215. Some of the others from the Knox Mill are here with us, including the Maine Women’s Fund, and a number of other entrepreneurs.
That’s what we love about this area: Someone is always busily up to something, not just sitting around. We will continue to tell your stories, accomplishments and deeds from our perch at 87 Elm. Cheers to change, and prosperity. And, happy spring to you all!