AUBURN — It’s been a lumberyard, a vocational school, a bank and, increasingly, a blight.

Maine Oxy is turning the 107-year-old historic Winter building at 100 Washington St. into its retail flagship. The company is the largest independent welding supply distributor in New England, according to Carl Paine, head of Maine Oxy business development.

“It will really be a remarkable transformation from kind of an eyesore into a beautiful contribution to the city of Auburn,” he said.

The company bought the two-story brick building next to the New England School of Metalwork, where Washington Street meets the rotary, four years ago with only general plans.

“As we expand, we need whatever is in the geography that we can expand in,” Paine said. “Unfortunately, a lot of it had fallen into disrepair.”

The building sits on the site of the former Union Box and Lumber Co. building lost to a huge fire in 1908, referred to at the time as “Auburn’s biggest blaze.” The Winter building went up months later.


Frank Winter, its namesake, leased part of the building to the city in the 1940s for the Auburn Vocational/Trade School and later created another school there to work on building prefab homes.

Multiple additions were built over the years. Paine said an engineer found the brick building structurally sound but recommended razing the wooden sections. An old towering smokestack came down in the past week.

Maine Oxy has already replaced the roof and plans call for refacing the bricks and installing new windows, heat and electric systems. The renovation will maintain the massive beams inside and the character, Paine said.

He declined to reveal the cost of the project, which he hopes to wrap by fall.

“I’m sure as we get into a century-old-plus building we’ll have some challenges,” Paine said.

Once complete, it will house Maine Oxy’s retail store, currently about 200 feet away at the corporate headquarters. Maine Oxy has 15 retail stores around New England and the Auburn store is now one of the smallest, Paine said.


It’ll triple in size at the Winter building and expand offerings of welding supplies, industrial gases and protective gear. A customer service department will be housed in the back and eventually offices will go on the second floor.

Maine Oxy has added five locations in the past six years and added 10 to 15 employees in the past year, bringing its workforce up to 160.

“We are growing rapidly as a company,” he said. “This is going to be the gateway to Auburn. It will be the flagship and it will be unique.”

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