This photo of the construction of Bates Mill #5 circa 1912-1913 shows the building’s iconic roof supports. Piles of materials rest in the foreground. The Nyquist-Battie collection, Lewiston Public Library

Aug. 16, 1850: Bates Manufacturing is incorporated. Benjamin E. Bates begins operating the Bates Manufacturing Co.

1861 to 1865: Civil War. Predicting a long conflict, Lewiston mills purchase large amounts of cotton at 12 cents per pound. With cotton later scarce, most New England mills are forced to close while the Lewiston mills continue operations. Bates Mill becomes a major supplier of the Union Army, providing duck cloth tents.

Nov. 15, 1863: Bates Manufacturing opens third mill.

1900: 70 percent of Lewiston’s workforce is working in the Bates mills, producing over 50 million yards of cloth in a year.

1912 to 1913: Bates Mill No. 5 constructed. The building was made without using combustion engines and all work was done through human or horse power. Concrete for the building was mixed on site, hauled to the top of wooden towers by horse. Concrete was then dumped down the chutes to the areas it was needed. Train tracks ran right to the site and raw materials for the construction were delivered in that manner.

July 1929: New England Industries, owners of Gulf Island dam and most power generation in the area, takes over ownership of most L-A mills, including Bates.


1932: New England Industries collapses as new federal monopoly laws limit power companies from owning manufacturing. Northern New England Co. purchases local mills, including Bates.

1940: Bates Mill is the largest employer in the state of Maine.

Nov. 5, 1992: After decades of decline brought on by a changing economy, off-shore manufacturing and other factors, the sprawling Bates Mill complex is all but abandoned. The city takes over the complex. “We realized if something didn’t happen and didn’t happen relatively soon, the heat was going to be shut off. It was early November, winter was coming. If the pipes froze, the roof was going to cave in. We were going to have acres of dilapidated mill buildings on our hands in the heart of downtown,” said former Mayor James Howaniec.

2000: The last vestiges of Bates Manufacturing Co., a small operation making bedspreads, closes its doors.

Aug. 25, 2004: Bates Mill exit deal sealed. Developer Tom Platz takes over the Bates Mill Enterprise Complex from the city, except for buildings No. 5 and No. 9. The deal reduces the city’s risks and obligations regarding the complex, while requiring specific investments by Platz.

March 1, 2008: A 15-member task force says demolishing Mill No. 5 would cost about $4.15 million; constructing a convention center could cost between $40 and $58 million but would create jobs and spawn other economic benefits, attracting more hotels, retail and restaurants.


May 19, 2008: City gives mill building “one last shot.” Council agrees to look for national bidders for redevelopment.

April 7, 2009: Blow it up, official urges. Council grows tired of yearly expenses to keep building in minimal repair, running on average between $250,000 and $350,000.

Mar. 2, 2010: Councilors stay Bates Mill No. 5 demolition. Effort extended to find a developer nationally.

Nov. 7, 2011: Maine voters reject Lewiston casino, which would have been located in Mill No. 5.

Nov. 21, 2011: Architecture student James Mangrum of Providence, R.I., proposes an indoor garden and server farm in Mill No.5 in his thesis. Later goes on to help form Grow L+A.

Dec. 30, 2011: Sun Journal project solicits reader ideas for Bates No. 5. Ideas include a science center with an IMAX theater, new manufacturing center, retail hub and mall-like area.


April 2012: Riverfront Island Master Plan is released, suggests demolition of Mill No. 5

April 4, 2012: City, public support for keeping, revitalizing Bates Mill No. 5 wanes. Public comments show weariness with ongoing revitalization efforts.

May 28, 2012: Local architect Gabrielle Russell argues for saving Mill No. 5 at council meeting. She later goes on to help form Grow L+A with other supporters.

June 5, 2012: Lewiston deal to purchase canals from power company dissolves. Deal would have allowed city to move forward more easily with Mill No. 5’s demolition.

Dec. 30, 2012: New nonprofit Grow L+A forms to save Bates Mill No. 5. Possibilities include indoor farming operation and a computer server center.

April 2, 2013: City council delays demo on Bates Mill No. 5, giving Grow L+A until Oct. 3 to present a plan to resurrect the building.


Oct. 1, 2013: Developer Tom Platz joins Grow L+A effort; council approves letting city staff negotiate with Platz for an option on the sawtooth-roofed building.

June 16, 2014: Central Maine Orthopaedics develops concept, in cooperation with Grow L+A and others, to establish an integrated fitness and medical service center at Bates Mill No. 5.

Feb. 17, 2015: City councilors vote to give the effort to save Mill No. 5 another year, but hint their patience is almost out. Developer Platz indicates that progress continues in securing possible tenants for the building.

Feb. 18, 2015: YMCA announces it is considering relocating and expanding in Mill No. 5.

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