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SCARBOROUGH — The possible existence of a former grist mill on the Scarborough Downs property has developers and historians scratching their heads.
An 1857 wall map of Cumberland County from the archives of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission marks in red ink the area where the mill once stood off Post Road.
The commission’s historic archaeologist identified the mill site above Oak Hill on the Scarborough Downs property, and told the Scarborough Historical Society about it before developers purchased the property earlier this year.
“Our office has not conducted field investigations to identify the presence of any remains of this mill, and we are not aware that any other entity has done so,” said Kirk F. Mohney, the commission’s director, but added there was interest by the town’s historical society in pursuing the lead.
Becky Delaware, curator and vice president of the Scarborough Historical Society, said the organization is aware of the map and that a grist mill once stood on the property, but said it is likely reduced to a stone foundation now.
Not much more is known about the mill, including who built it and in what year. “I am afraid that the commission does not know anything more about the mill than what the map reveals,” Mohney said.
Delaware said the society has not searched for the site. However, she said owners of the Scarborough Downs property told her they have looked for the mill, but found nothing.
Delaware said every stream and brook in town had a grist mill and a sawmill at one point because that’s what people needed: tools to grind grain and to mill lumber to build homes. She said Mill Creek at one time was the site of three grist mills, though none were preserved.
She said once the mills stopped being used they eventually collapsed into the ground.
Planning Board member Rachel Hendrickson suggested at a board meeting earlier this month that developers could contact local Boy Scouts to search for the site – and offer a little adventure and a history lesson at the same time.
Dan Bacon, project manager for the 500-acre project that is planned for mixed-use development in several phases, told the Planning Board that his staff has searched for a foundation, also to no avail.
Diana Nelson, of Blackly Media, said site planners have looked for the grist mill and have not been able to locate it. Nelson said there was a small area with some stacked bricks found in a stream near Route 1 that could be it, but there was not enough evidence to confirm it was the mill.
“Regardless, the area in the stream with the bricks is not near any area of possible or future development,” she said.
The first phase of development will focus on 57 southern acres that abut Route 1, Enterprise Drive and Sawyer Drive.
Proposals in the first phase include 56 multi-family apartments, 24 condominiums, 24 duplexes, 30 single-family homes and a memory care facility.
Development company Cross Roads Holdings LLC is owned by William, Marc and Rocco Risbara III, of Risbara Bros. Construction Co., and Peter and Richard Michaud, formerly of Michaud Distributors.
The group purchased the property in January for $6.7 million.
An 1857 map of Cumberland County includes a red mark where a grist mill once stood on property that now includes Scarborough Downs.