Hello fellow Berlinites. Continuing with the immense development by the Berlin Mills Company between Berlin and Gorham, after the first dam and then the railroad trestle, we came to the main plant, which was considered a mammoth structure of its kind.
It is situated on the western bank of the river on a comparatively level strip of the valley, which is wider at this point than further up. The sharp descent afforded the immense power that was being harnessed and the location offered many features that would aid in placement of the dam.
The point of land extending from the eastern shore and the large ledge at about the middle of the old channel afforded a good foundation upon which to rest the main dam and these were both utilized. The ledges that were formerly the chief features of the landscape were made over and distributed at various points in and around the buildings.
The dam itself, which was the first point of interest, was a high wall of concrete through which the water was now pouring by means of openings left for this purpose. In shape it is circular with the outer or longer surface facing up stream.
Its eastern end was founded on the point of land and culminated in an immense block of concrete. The center rests on the ledge mentioned above and its western termination was a gatehouse and gates, 13 in number. The gatehouse reached to a convenient knoll thus tying together in one, all three natural points of anchorage.
The dam is of different heights at different points, varying from 25 to 58 feet. It is 316 feet long and as it stood gave 8,000 horsepower. It was also arranged that, if at some time in the future, more power was required an addition may be readily made and power increased. This dam was created on Dec. 5, 1903.
Below the dam is an enclosure of some 3 acres surrounded by a concrete wall on the riverside, the gates at the head of the pent-stocks and the wall of the middle on the southern side, the wall of the boiler on the western side, and the gates of the dam on the northern side. This bay is fed from the gates of the dam and in turn supplied water to the wheels of the mill.
On the western side of the bay mentioned above, stands the boiler house. This is a commodious brick building with room for nine boilers, which would furnish 5,000 hp. By December of 1903, one of these was already in place and in operation. It was used to heat some of the rooms where work was taking place back then during the cold months.
There were six pent-stocks, which were situated on the north side of the building below the bay and their wheels would be put into position at this time. To start with, only four wheels were installed. One was already in place and the others were put in when it was convenient.
Beyond these buildings were the grinder and wood rooms. The former was 126×170 feet and the latter 106×170 feet. Both of these had commodious basements with tanks and other paraphernalia for the work carried on here.
The sulphite room was situated on the east side of the screen room and was the highest of the buildings. It had a capacity of 80 to 125 tons per day. I am sure that some of these places still exist, but no longer are operational. Someone who works all over this mill today could probably tell me.
The digester house was 40×84 feet and 100 feet high, and in addition to this there were four blow pits 68×84 feet. The screen rooms had three floors including a basement and were next in order. It afforded ample room for the disposing of the work to be done in this department.
Next to the screen room was the beater room and this was a grand and roomy area 72×155 feet. Like the screen room, it had three floors including the basement where the engines were located as well as the pumps for pumping the material into the machines above.
The machine room joined the beater room on the south and was the grand center of the plant. The surface here is 150×240 feet, the floor being in the hands of the concrete and mason people by December 1903. The floor was soon to be completed and then the machines put into place at once, as one was being put in during the end of 1903.
This room accommodated four machines each having a capacity of 32 tons of paper per day making the total production of the paper plant about 140 tons daily. These machines were of the Halley and Sewell type made in Watertown, New York.
Beyond the machine room came the finishing room, which measured 124×146 feet. Here, the product would be prepared for the market and the floor space afforded ample room for the work. This room was yet to be completed, but by the end of winter 1904 was ready for service.
On the far side of the finishing room was the storage room and this space was 124×145 feet. It was used for storing such stock as was made and not shipped immediately. Beyond the storage room was the repair shop, 121×124 feet. In this room, the carpenters were now at work using it as a workshop. By the end of December 1903, a considerable amount of machinery had already been installed and employed by the workmen.
In the southwest corner of this building was situated the main office of the mill. This room was about 30×124 feet. The superintendent’s office was also connected to this making everything convenient and well located.
This was the completion of the interior of the main mills and the outside presented little beyond what was seen about other similar plants. The large brick buildings with their steel skeletons gave the observer an impression of stability and power, which would only be more realized a few months later when the wheels began their ceaseless work and the great machines emitted the compact rolls of paper adding so much more to Berlin’s reputation as a “Paper City.”
Perhaps the most conspicuous feature of the exterior of this plant was the chimney, which towered from the roof of the boiler house. This was built during the summer of 1903 under the supervision of H. C. Rowell, who had meritoriously won a wide reputation along this line of work. This monument of brick, which is still there today (2017), stands 233 feet high above the ground with a diameter of 19 and one half feet at the base and 10 feet at the bottom. I wonder if there are any machines in this mill that were there from its inception? I do not know the answer to this question.
I will finish the story of this great undertaking 114 years ago in my next week’s writing.