Just Milling Around

This was something of a first for me – traveling somewhere far away to a place that not only have I been, but I wasn’t with anyone guiding me to it. As fragile as things have been for me over the years finding people who will explore with me, it was probably a huge mistake, but one that paid off in the end. After a bit of wandering to check out an abandoned, delicious apple orchard (can all this fruit be free?) and another mill which seemed to have been demolished decades ago, we eventually made it to Lyons Falls, a classic American bust-town, built and collapsed on the fortunes of its company.

Once known as Goulds Mill(s), after the founding Gould family, the town grew quickly into the start of the 20th century, soon moving across the river (and acquiring its present name) for more room and to take advantage of the namesake cascade for power, until it reached a population of over 1000, with nearly all of the village’s men working in the paper mill, a behemoth separating the main street from the river. The mill prospered for 100 years, expanding three times after the 1922 move to the present side of the Moose River, until it came into hard times in the 1980s like many American paper mills, faced with competition from Canada and price pressure from recycled paper reaching sufficient quality for newsprint. Lyons Falls finally fell in 2001, within months of the first closures of Deferiet and Newton Falls, a “triple whammy” blow to the economy of Lewis County that cost much of its working age population, and left three towns blighted by toxic, abandoned wrecks of some of the largest factories in the state. By 2010, with no hope in sight for restoring the mill, and efforts at the other, slightly newer North Country mills sputtering along at best, the county and state started demolishing the most dangerous and toxic sections along the riverside, an attempt which quickly ran out of money, but created some entrances in the once solid compound.

The front of the mill is guarded by what at first appears to be a palisade, but was actually the foundation of a former elevated rail line, delivering supplies into the upper level of the building.

As soon as we got into the building, a toxic sensation wafted through the air — more than just a smell, but kind of like a taste, with a tinge of headache. Overall, a sign that this might not be a place where people belong anymore.

The cause became more and more apparent. When the mill was abandoned, they didn’t even bother to empty many of the chemical tanks.

I tried to start the machinery up again, but there was no owner’s manual.

No one even bothered to do the dishes the last day in the lab!

At the top of this building, we found a somewhat rickety crossing into the much larger main part of the mill, which is still effectively sealed from the outside by fresh boards and 1000-lb concrete blocks sitting in front of doors that would have probably opened otherwise.

There was a nearly identical match to the control room on this side, hidden in a completely pitch-black cage in the center of the factory floor. Compared to the location of the other control room, between the lab and the breakroom and with windows onto the factory and the outside, this doesn’t seem like the most appealing work environment.

Unfortunately, these appear to be the seatings for some immense machine that is no longer with us.

…probably whatever used these 5-foot pipes!

And now you tell us! This sign was right by the exit, and probably quite justified with the toxic cocktail involved in running a paper mill, most of which is still left here.

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