Nov. 30, 1989: A massive fire destroys most of the long-vacant former Edwards Manufacturing Co. mill complex in Augusta at the base of Sand Hill.

The fire, which could be seen up to 20 miles away, began inside an elevator in the north end of the building, according to some workers there. Reported at 3 p.m., it makes fast work of the 150-year-old complex. Bales of cotton and oil-soaked wooden floors contribute to the fire’s intensity.

Knowing they can’t save the mill buildings, firefighters douse the southern and western ends of them, which are not burning yet, to prevent flames from spreading to the many old wood-frame homes and apartment buildings across the street, lining the bottom of Northern Avenue.

Several workers who were removing machinery and cotton bales from the building are able to escape without injury.

Before the mill ceased manufacturing cotton and wool products and closed in the early 1980s, it employed thousands of people over the decades. Many of them lived just up the avenue in the traditionally French Canadian neighborhood called Sand Hill. Others lived in homes and apartments along the streets at the bottom of the hill.

Two days later, on Dec. 2, firefighters are sent back to the mill site to put out a fire that springs up from the embers of the Nov. 30 blaze.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

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