Throwback Thursday Blog ~ The Old Knox Mill in Camden, Maine!

In 1990, we moved to the little, charming, and beautiful New England town of Camden, Maine.  We bought a home just outside of town in the woods, and when we traveled into downtown Camden sometimes we would take the back route to avoid the “traffic” on Route 1 and we would drive by the old mill.  Whenever we had houseguests, however, we would take Route 1 to avoid our guests seeing the dilapidated old mill on the edge of town on the back route.  It was most definitely a fire hazard.  It was without a doubt an eyesore.   It was along the Megunticook River and it was the Knox Mill.  

An old, abandoned woolen mill, with broken windows, and peeling paint; the mill used to employ half of the town.  It was in operation from approximately 1850 to 1988!  Well, in 1990 when we moved to town, nobody knew what to do with it.  Times had changed.  Nobody wanted a manufacturing business to disturb the environmentally friendly neighborhood.  

I was a self-employed artist showing my work at Bayview Gallery and loving the new “Maine” experience.  We had moved from the suburbs of Bethesda, Maryland, left the corporate jobs behind and set out on our own.  

Next thing I knew, in 1994, MBNA (a major credit card corporation) decided to turn the old Knox Mill into their regional headquarters!  The mill went from a fire hazard to pristine. Everybody started driving by to see how beautiful the old mill looked, including us!

The Knox Mill, MBNA Regional Headquarters, painting by William R. Beebe

The Knox Mill, MBNA Regional Headquarters, painting by William R. Beebe

When the mill opened to the public as the new MBNA regional office, Jen and I went to tour the building.  That is when our lives changed.  We met Charles M. Cawley.  

In one of my previous blogs, I wrote about this first encounter with Mr. Cawley, the visionary leader of MBNA.  

He, soon thereafter, hired me to be the resident artist of MBNA.  What an honor that was!  One of my first projects was to do a painting of the old mill along the Megunticook River.   It was going to be on the cover of the MBNA stockholders quarterly report!  

MBNA Quarterly Stockholders Report Cover, painting by William R. Beebe

MBNA Quarterly Stockholders Report Cover, painting by William R. Beebe

It wasn’t even dry when my new boss saw it.  I remember the excitement he showed when he saw the painting.  He had taken a fire hazard and turned it into a clean operating business that employed hundreds of locals.  The facility had become a tourist attraction because of the amazing transformation.  Local artists, stores, and businesses all benefited by the significant increase in employment and the increase in philanthropy.

Soon after my painting was photographed and used for the cover of the company’s Quarterly Report, MBNA came up with the idea of customizing their credit cards.  Every employee had the choice to pick what image they would like to have on the face of their personal credit card.  The office from which they worked was one choice (my paintings of each facility) so on my own MBNA credit card I chose my painting of the Knox Mill.  

So over the years, we would hear comments like “what an unusual credit card”, at which point Jen would proudly say “my husband painted that”!  ☺

Time has marched on, I’m once again a self-employed artist, MBNA was bought by Bank of America, and the Knox Mill has been turned into high-end condos, stores, and a restaurant or two!  

The town of Camden has lost its biggest employer, but has benefited greatly from their presence.  The old mill is no longer a fire hazard.  

I enjoyed painting the Mill after it had been revitalized.  Although, the reflection in the water caused me to have to do twice the work!   ☺  It’s nice when reminiscing brings back such positive memories.  My time with MBNA introduced us to lifelong friends and was a wonderful opportunity for me to grow as an artist!  
Thanks as always for following my art, my photography, and my journal!

One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What's next?  Drawing by William R. Beebe

What's next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe