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Finding Fort Andross: A closer look inside Brunswick’s former textile mill

Sitting squarely at the end of Maine Street, Fort Andross anchors our town’s commercial district.

Bowdoin students don’t make too many trips to the Fort. We go for the flea market—some for the farmers’ market—and often to Frontier for movies and coffee. But throughout the building, one finds over 100 of businesses of all types. It might be Brunswick’s premiere office building—but it’s also mixed use, home to artists’ studios, a soda manufacturer, three exercise businesses and a multi-floor self storage business.

We are fascinated by the mill’s present residents but also by the mill’s history and its continual role as an economic engine in our community. In this issue, we hope to bring you inside the Fort.   You’ll find stories that cover the scope—profiles of businesses, spaces and artists, a visual timeline —but don’t cover everything. There’s so much to explore.

We hope this special edition sheds some light on this important element of our community.

A special thank you to all those who helped make this possible. We would like to acknowledge Anthony Gatti and Coleman Burke of Waterfront Maine, Scott Hanson and the everyone who works in Fort Andross and keeps it a lively place.

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Fort of the Future

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.

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Amidst rows of storage space, life exists

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.

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Marketing Maine agriculture

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.

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Relics for sale, in a modern age

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.

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Dam those fish: human-environment interaction on the Androscoggin River

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.

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