Four floors of evenly-spaced windows tower over the Androscoggin River. The faded brick structure stands firm, bookending Maine Street just before Topsham. Though unassuming from the exterior, Fort Andross is a place bustling with motion – hundreds of individuals enter and exit every day, each with a unique purpose.
For many, Cumberland Self Storage signifies transition: a temporary place to store belongings. But for the past 11 years, Manager Steve Howe has been a constant friendly face to greet and help customers. “A lot of people think it’s dull and boring—you just sit on your butt all day long and don’t do anything—but that’s not the case.
Every Saturday from November to May, vendors selling goods from freshly-harvested mushrooms to homemade body lotions shuffle in to fill the first floor of Fort Andross with their colorful stalls. This is the Brunswick Winter Market, where the vendors are as eclectic and versatile as they are passionate about their craft—whether it is cheese- and butter-making, coffee roasting or knife sharpening.
Next door to the Winter Market is the Waterfront Flea Market. In fact, customers have to walk past the flea market to get to the winter market. A lot of people pause before the flea market, look, a bit confused and intrigued, at the couple of mismatched chairs out front, but many just continue to the other market.
Leaning back comfortably in a well-worn chair, Jim Bleikamp describes how he has gone “über-local.” The president of Radio 9 WCME, housed in the heart of Fort Andross and found at AM 900, he says, “You could tune in to the station every hour and figure that the Northern boundary of the world is maybe Rockland and the Southern boundary is Freeport.
With a median age of 44.5 years, Maine is the oldest state in the United States. An aging population presents a variety of challenges. Brunswick itself has three senior housing facilities, one of which is Mid Coast Senior Health Center.
Any north-facing windows at Fort Andross provide a full view of the Brunswick dam, a massive concrete structure on the Androscoggin River with a capacity 19,000 kilowatt-hours, according to the Maine Governor’s Energy Office. Today’s dam is hydroelectric, owned by Brookfield Renewable, a subsidiary of the international asset management company, but dams have shaped Brunswick’s development for centuries—the first was built in 1753 to serve the town’s sawmills.