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.

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.

Piles of bricks are about all that is left of the Cowan Mill in Lewiston.

Piles of bricks are about all that is left of the Cowan Mill in Lewiston.

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