The Power Source of the Mill

A photo of the lagoon located under Building 10 of the Pepperell Mill Campus.


Constructed around 1830-1840, this unique structure was the hub of power distribution for the original textile weaving complex. Water would enter the lagoon from the canals and spin giant wooden water wheels. The wheels, or turbines, would then turn leather belts on many floors and power the weaving machinery. The canals are connected to the river above the falls. The force of gravity on the water, as it was going down in elevation, was called ‘head pressure’. It was this force that drove all of the machines at the mill.

There are many canals and underground cisterns beneath Biddeford’s mill district and Saco Island. Some have since been closed off and some of the wooden water wheels have been removed, but the lagoon under Building 10 of the Pepperell Mill Campus is still preserved and accessible.

The lagoon is an engineering and architectural marvel, worthy of preservation and celebration. It will be a primary stop point on future organized tours to be conducted by the Biddeford Mills Museum.