City uncertain what to do with Cowan Mill bricks

LEWISTON — Bricks from the demolished Cowan Mill are not likely to be used for construction because of their condition and the economic recession, Norman Davis, general manager of Morin Brick Co., said this week.


Daryn Slover/Sun Journal
Piles of bricks are about all that is left of the Cowan Mill in Lewiston.


Daryn Slover/Sun Journal
Piles of bricks are about all that is left of the Cowan Mill in Lewiston.

The four-story structure beside the Androscoggin River was gutted by fire this month and its remaining shell was razed due to safety concerns.
The mill was built in 1850 with several walls of bricks.

"I don't know of an immediate market for them," Davis said. "The exterior wall is very durable, but the interior walls often have soft bricks." Those soft bricks are unsafe to use for new buildings, he said. The high likelihood of lead paint covering the innermost layer of the mill makes the bricks even more unsafe.

Davis said tests could be done to distinguish the interior bricks from the exterior ones, but there isn't demand for old bricks in an economic recession. During times of economic advancement or stability, Davis said he saw bricks from demolition sites used to build fireplaces and other structures. The current recession has curtailed the trend.

"The brick market is like all building material markets: It is soft," Davis said. 

He said Morin Brick had not been consulted about the Cowan Mill bricks, but he speculated that the bricks may be buried in a local landfill. 

Norman Beauparlant, Lewiston's director of purchasing, thinks it's too early to speculate. Beauparlant said dumping bricks into the landfill would be a last resort. He agreed that the bricks are not likely to be used for new construction.

Bricks from other large mills that have been demolished have been used as aggregate for roads or used to fill in embankments, Beauparlant said. He believes it is likely that the Cowan Mill bricks will be sold to a contractor, crushed up and used for other projects.

Lewiston-Auburn has a rich history of brick-making. When the industry was booming, many local buildings, including Central Maine Medical Center and those at Bates College, were built by bricks manufactured locally.

This Saturday, Museum L-A will hold an exhibit on the local history of the industry called "Portraits and Voices: Brickyard Roads." The exhibit will hold its grand opening at 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1. A collage of buildings made with Morin bricks will be on display, as well as a time line and map of brickyards in the Lewiston-Auburn area.

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 's picture

also.. if you go to Morin

also.. if you go to Morin brick, he takes the rejects from the brickmaking process and crushes them to use as a sort of gravel/crushed rock type pathway/driveway. He also uses the same stuff instead of mulch in his plant beds.. in both cases oddly enough it actually looks really good.

 's picture

I agree.. before they get

I agree.. before they get thrown out.. patio, bbq pit.. all good ideas.. plus its a part of history and your bbq pit would have a story to tell. I'm not sure the impact of lead paint in a bbq fireplace though.. i can't imagine its a good thing.


It would be great if the

It would be great if the city or contractor could haul them to a city pit somewhere and give them away. People could use them as pavers for a walk or garden, a bbq- place or artists could use them as sculpture. They should not end up in a landfill.

 's picture

Sell them to the state & see

Sell them to the state & see if we bring down this debt the Balded one in the Blaine House has put this state in


I would like to have enough

I would like to have enough to make a firepit for cookouts (if the rain ever stops).
I dont have money but it would be better than the Landfill.


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