The former Solon Manufacturing mill in Skowhegan, at center, is undergoing a two-year, $15 million redevelopment that will include a hotel, 45 apartments and the relocation of Bigelow Brewing Co. to the ground floor. Skowhegan Federated Church is at left and the Weston Dam can be seen on the other side of the mill building.

SKOWHEGAN — Construction has started on a $15 million plan to transform the former Solon Manufacturing mill on the island downtown into a brewery, housing and a hotel, a development that officials hope will complement other town projects in the works and boost economic development.

“Rehabbing an old mill building like that, there’s definitely a different set of issues for someone to deal with, but it’s very rewarding in the end,” Town Manager Christina Almand said.

She was speaking about the historic 80,000-square-foot mill at 7 Island Ave. that Jeff and Pam Powers, owners of Bigelow Brewing Co., bought five years ago and recently sold to High Tide Capital LLC of Bangor.

High Tide, which has done revitalization projects in Bangor and elsewhere, plans to have the Bigelow brewery and tap room anchor the ground floor. A 15- to 20-room hotel, also on the ground floor, will feature  large rooms designed for overnight or extended stays. In addition, there will be 45 apartments on the second and fourth floors, according to Dash Davidson, a principal in High Tide with Max Patinkin.

Davidson said there will be green space surrounding the building, amenities in the basement serving the apartments and hotel, and 7,000-square-feet of roof deck overlooking the Weston Dam and riverwalk.

Development is expected to be completed in two years, according to Davidson.


“We are starting construction immediately,” he said by email. “Roofers are on site … to begin installing a new roof on the building.”

Bigelow Brewing Co. will move into the cavernous first floor of the former Solon Manufacturing mill on the island in downtown Skowhegan. The mill building is undergoing a $15 million redevelopment that also will bring with it hotel rooms and 45 apartments. It’s expected to take about two years to complete the work. Photo courtesy of High Tide Capital

Christian Savage, executive director of the Somerset Economic Development Corp., said his organization has been working with Bigelow Brewing for more than four years on the project.

“From conception to purchase, design and now construction, I’ve been very impressed with Bigelow’s passion for the project,” Savage said in an email. “Of course it will help the business expand production and sales in the new downtown location, but Jeff and Pam have always viewed this more of a win for the downtown area than their business. A new brewery for locals and visitors, much needed downtown housing units, and the beautification of a historic building is what has been driving the Powers to see this project through.”

Savage said the couple’s partnership with High Tide accelerated the project, prompting the beginning of the roof’s reconstruction.

“This will be one of the more impactful projects Skowhegan has seen and frankly adds to the ongoing momentum Skowhegan is undergoing,” Savage said.

Jeff and Pam Powers did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.


The building was constructed in 1922 and originally housed Maine Spinning Co., according to information provided by the Somerset Economic Development Corp. The company was at its height from the 1940s to the 1970s, when it employed 300 people and produced 1.5 million t0 2 million pounds of yarn for markets around the country.

The mill was later acquired by Solon Manufacturing, which operated until 2005. It produced a variety of wooden, plastic and metal products for medical, industrial and food markets. The building changed hands several times but has remained mostly vacant since then, though Chapter 11 Inc., a discount mattress and furniture store, occupied the space for a brief period beginning in 2014.

This rendering shows the former Solon Manufacturing mill on the island in downtown Skowhegan as it will look once a redevelopment project estimated to cost approximately $15 million is concluded in about two years. Plans call for Skowhegan-based Bigelow Brewing Co. to move into the building, which will also have a hotel and apartments.

The Maine Historic Preservation Commission in August announced that the mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places because of the outsize role Maine Spinning Co. played in the textile industry in the state for much of the 20th century.

The mill building is one of a number of such structures in the region undergoing a transformation. Developers are planning to spend more than $30 million on just a first phase of redevelopment of one of the Lockwood Mill buildings extending south of downtown Waterville. And in Lisbon, officials are hoping the former Worumbo Mill can once again become an economic catalyst for that town.

Skowhegan, meanwhile, has several projects in various stages of development, including a new elementary school off Heselton Street and a public safety building on East Madison Road expected to be ready for occupancy next June. Another project, The River Park, formerly known as Run of River, will have the only adjustable wave on the Kennebec River, which will allow for whitewater rafting competitions and other events. The park will be accessible from downtown by a stairway and audience seating is planned. About 50 miles of trails also are proposed for the greater Skowhegan area.

Main Street Skowhegan, a nonprofit that’s focused on revitalizing the town, got $2 million in federal funding to redevelop the downtown riverfront, which overlooks the gorge, in anticipation of Skowhegan’s future river park.


Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan, said development of the mill into a mixed-use facility with residential units is going to transform downtown into a place where people not only work but also live, bringing new vibrancy to the heart of the community.

“Add to that a river park with a promenade, trails, river access and enhanced whitewater, and downtown Skowhegan becomes one of the most attractive new places to live in Maine,” Cannon said in an email. “People will be able to live within a stone’s throw of shops, restaurants and recreation opportunities, and instead of our downtown shutting down at 5 p.m., we’ll see people out and about walking, biking and enjoying our riverfront seven days a week, all year long.”

The town is partnering with the state Department of Transportation and Main Street Skowhegan on a program called the Village Partnership Initiative to help plan for the future using a broad approach to downtown design, according to Almand, the town manager. Residents in June approved the work to develop a vision for reinvestment and revitalization of Skowhegan’s village center.

All the different projects underway have the potential to impact traffic flow through town, so a study for constructing a new bridge across the Kennebec River has been put on hold for now.

“We want to take a step back and look at it comprehensively,” Almand said.

She said the town will go out to bond for a consultant to help with planning phases and the town would seek grants to make major improvements to vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle travel. Federal funds also will be sought.

“All the different projects are in different phases but I think we’re going to see a lot of changes over the next 24 to 60 months,” she said.

More housing in the area is definitely needed, according to Almand.

“In addition to that,” she said, “I think any time an old mill building is being rehabilitated in a community, it’s a positive project and I love to see those mixed-use buildings.”

Comments are no longer available on this story