By Poof Tardiff
Hello fellow Berlinites. One of the single greatest developments that was ever accomplished on the Berlin-Gorham line was the construction of the Cascade Mill, considered at one time to be the largest paper mill in the world. It is now today’s Gorham Paper and Tissue plant.
First of all, where did the name Cascade originate? It came from the beautiful falls on the east side of the river, called the Alpine Cascades. These falls are seen by many people today (2017) as they can access this spot by snowmobile or four-wheelers on the trip down the old B&M railroad bed and even picnic there.
With the completion of the mill, the small town known as Cascade Flats and Cascade Hill were developed and became known as the Italian section of the Berlin-Gorham communities. I found a great article that was printed on Dec. 31, 1903, when this great mill was nearing completion, and would like to share it with my readers.
This is the story of the immense operations in the development by the Berlin Mills Company along the Androscoggin River between Berlin and Gorham and what it meant to the “Paper City.” I hope that my followers and the paper makers who work at this mill today enjoy this short narrative.
The work of constructing the new development below the city had been going on for nearly a year and a half by December of 1903, and so steadily had the men been working at this undertaking that the large and roomy brick buildings seemed to have sprung into existence almost as if by magic.
Since the first day that this work was started, the matter had not been called to the public’s attention, except when an occasional Italian laborer, who basically built this mill, amused himself by picking a stick of dynamite and was hastened into the other world. Also, when the shanties, where Cascade Flats got its start, caught on fire and the fire department was called out. This gave the area a thorough cleaning up, thus making news for the citizens of the Berlin and Gorham communities about the huge undertaking that was going on.
Many parties had been conveyed here by the new trolleys or teams at various times and the people had some idea of the progress, though a few weeks neglect in these visits revealed marvelous changes. Early in the spring of 1903, only piles of dirt and rock were to be seen. Then, by midsummer the tall chimney (which still stands today), was started and almost equaled in rapid growth the famous beanstalk of Mother Goose.
Next, the steel skeletons were stretched in space and as if by supernatural means; these were quickly enveloped in brick and were nearly completed structures, where but a short year ago there was only debris.
Though the location of the mill was mainly in the town of Gorham, Berlin felt some proprietorship for having so long had in her territory, the main mills of this company and because of its nearness to the “Paper City.” The dividing line between these two towns runs just north of the large dam, and, except for the grinding mill, the buildings were all in Gorham.
As was frequently published, the Berlin Mills Company had control of this water privilege (just across from today’s Vintage Junky) for a long time and in 1901 decided to develop it. The surveys were made in the summer of this year mentioned, but the real work was not begun until September of 1902, when workmen began to clear up the site, which was then covered with a mongrel growth of bushes and stunted trees.
This work was kept up during the winter months, and some excavation was started early in the spring of 1903. As soon as the season was well underway, a large number of laborers, mostly of Italian decent, as could be conveniently handled, was put to work and little time was wasted since.
The highway that used to follow quite closely to the bank of the river had changed its course and its former site was obliterated and occupied by the new building of the paper mill. A new road was literary dug from the rocks which constituted the side of a hill and made a broad, smooth, pass on the west side of the new electric railroad. It now made one of the prettiest drives in the neighborhood of the city.
The whole valley above the mills was cleared up as much of the smaller growth of the company’s land, and the rough aspect had in a measure been removed. Within a year, a new railroad had sprung into existence, extending from the mills of the company above the city, along the east bank of the river and parallel to the line of the Boston and Maine, which crossed at a little distance above the new mill by means of an underpass. A steel bridge was put across the river to accommodate the new railroad, and from this point it extended to the new yard tracks running along the western side of the Androscoggin.
This work had been no average undertaking, as one familiar with the route knew. Rugged hills had been leveled and trestles built to span gulches, but the line was soon put into active operation. Also, a spur line was built by the Grand Trunk, extending from a point opposite the Cascade Park Casino, adjoining the tracks of the company at the northern end of their yard. Thus, ready communication with either the Grand Trunk or the Boston and Maine was secured. We still cross this spur line on the BG Road in Cascade.
The new plant was divided into three sections, which were located at the three separate water privileges. The first of these proceeding down the river is what was called “Upper Dam,” the second was the main plant at the Cascades proper, and the third was the electric light plant, which was being built just north of the Boston and Maine trestle just above Gorham village.
The first of these, the Upper Dam, was situated a short distance below the International Paper Company's lower mill and consisted of a concrete dam 25 feet high. This generated 5,000 horse power, and it was used to operate the wood grinding mill. This product was carried to the second plant by gravity. The dam was nearing completion and was finished in February of 1904. The building, which contained the machinery, was in the hands of the masons by December 1903 and finished in early January 1904. The dam still operates today.
I will continue with the great construction of the Cascade Mill and its development in my next story.