AUGUSTA — Primarily privately funded proposals to create a museum in tribute to the city’s workers, and a branch of a financial institution at Capital Area Technical Center, face City Council scrutiny Thursday.

A small group of local residents, organized as the nonprofit group Friends for a Heritage Center at Mill Park, have been raising funds, and interest, in creating a museum to the city’s manufacturing workers, especially the largely Franco-American immigrants who toiled in the former Edwards Mill complex beside the Kennebec River.

They hope to use a city-owned building which is the only still-standing Edwards Mill building — a two-story, 1,800-square-foot brick building on a small hill overlooking the former mill site — as the home to their proposed Heritage Center at Mill Park.

At its peak, the Edwards Mill work force numbered 1,300 people — many of them Franco-Americans and other immigrants who came to America, and Augusta, to work.

They made cotton cloth products for a thriving company — and lives for themselves and their families.

The ‘Friends’ group has been laying the foundation for the museum for three years, interviewing, photographing and recording video and audio of 31 former mill workers, documenting their stories and memories.


But the project, Friends’ President Jan Michaud said, would need the city’s blessing to move forward.

City councilors are scheduled to discuss the potential Heritage Center at their informational meeting Thursday, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Councilors are also scheduled to discuss zoning for a bank branch at Capital Area Technical Center, a regional technical education center in Augusta.

As part of plans to expand business programming at CATC, officials have proposed working with a local financial institution to create a real branch at the school. Students could work in the branch, and learn about banking methods and processes, according to Scott Phair, director of CATC.

“Students would work with customers in a real banking situation,” Phair said of the proposed branch. “The financial institution made a strong commitment to invest in their facility; it won’t be taxpayer money, it will be private money.”

However, a similar proposal in 2007, to have a Maine Education Credit Union branch open in the lobby of CATC, was halted because the zone in which the technical center is located didn’t allow commercial businesses with public access.


The issue could be resolved, City Manager William Bridgeo said, by councilors asking the Planning Board to consider changing zoning rules to allow the financial institution at CATC, and make a recommendation back to councilors.

Councilors Thursday are also scheduled to hear a presentation from officials of the Greater Augusta Utility District.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

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