The Old Town mill has been through many changes in its more than 100-year history.
The Great Works property was originally built as a sawmill site in 1833 by Dwinel, Sawyer & Co., according to historical archives from the Old Town Museum. The site burned down in 1856 and was rebuilt the following year. Nine years later, the sawmill burned again and the site was eventually sold to William T. Pearson, Esq., of Bangor.
The following is a timeline of major events in Old Town’s economic history beginning with the establishment of the Penobscot Chemical Fiber Company on the former sawmill site.
Penobscot Chemical Fiber Co. is established.
PCF merges with Diamond International Corp., becomes Penobscot Division of Diamond International.
James River Corp. purchases the facility.
A fire destroys three buildings downtown, shutting down eight businesses.
James River merges with Fort Howard, creating Fort James Corp.
Georgia-Pacific Corp. buys the Old Town mill from the former Fort James Corp., begins producing pulp and tissue products.
Koch Industries Inc., purchases Georgia-Pacific for $21 billion.
G-P permanently closes, laying off about 400 workers. The company claims that “the mill’s tissue and pulp manufacturing assets are no longer required to service our customer base.” The facility’s tissue machinery is dismantled and removed.
A company formed by a group of private investors called Red Shield Environmental purchases the mill for $1. The sale came with provision that there would be no tissue production for at least five years. Red Shield revives the mill’s pulp production.
Red Shield files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Mill production is temporarily idled and at least 160 employees are put out of work.
A federal bankruptcy judge approves the sale of the mill to Patriarch Partners, a New York investment firm, for nearly $19 million. The firm renames the site Old Town Fuel & Fiber.
Old Town Fuel & Fiber abruptly closes and furloughs 180 workers indefinitely. The company cited foreign competition and rising wood and energy costs for the shutdown.
Creditors petitioned the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Bangor to force the shuttered mill into Chapter 7 bankruptcy, claiming it had accrued at least $1 million in unpaid debts.
Promising to restart pulp production, Wisconsin-based company Expera Specialty Solutions buys the idled mill after a bankruptcy judge OKs the $10.5 million sale.
Expera announces plans to close the mill it had purchased less than a year prior. The company claimed the shutdown was caused by high wood costs, declining value of the Canadian dollar and a significant increase in the market’s capacity for pulp production. The closure affected approximately 195 millworkers.
The mill bounced between a couple more temporary owners before it was finally taken over by a subsidiary of Nine Dragons Paper, a Chinese firm.
After hiring 130 workers, ND Paper officially opens and revives pulp production.
A massive fire guts downtown again — this time on the opposite side of Main Street. Flames rip through several businesses such as Simple Things & Sweets and The Cutting Edge. The fire also displaces 11 people who live in upstairs apartments.
Three buildings that had been damaged beyond repair are demolished, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of downtown.