THE TWIN CITIES – LEWISTON-AUBURN, MAINE
The general traffic bridges and two railroad bridges join Lewiston, on the east bank, with Auburn on the west. Strong as the bridges have been in binding Lewiston and Auburn together, there have been occasions when they have, in a sense, separated rather than joined the two cities. Many residents of one city work in the other, and during the strike of 1937, the bridges became barriers guarded by militia and police who sought to prevent strikers of one city from entering the other. Again, the bridges have often been the scene of pitched battles, usually induced by high-school rivalry, between the youth of the two cities.
—Maine: A Guide ‘Down East’ (WPA, 1937)
The cities of the Androscoggin River, Lewiston and Auburn, sit facing each other across this lengthy waterway that runs from northern New Hampshire to the Gulf of Maine. Once the textile heart of the state, this joint community still has the bones and the buildings to prove it. The brick mill buildings mostly sit vacant along the river as they have almost my entire life. A few new occupants here and there, but it remains nearly unchanged for several decades now.
The two cities are not terribly distinct from each other and have always been spoken about in the same breath. So much so that they’ve discussed merging into one to save on town resources. Lewiston by itself is Maine’s second largest city, but it feels less like a city and more like numerous hard working towns across the country. You wonder how it still survives after industry closed its doors on it. Clothing and shoe factories all gone save one.
Despite being the second largest community in the state, in less than five minutes you’ve traveled from the center to the outskirts—where asphalt crumbles and side roads turn to dirt. Hay fields and corn stalks are plenty, now desiccated and pale, waiting for the weight of winter to pull them down. Next to you is the river which you can watch as it leaves town like everyone else did.
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Guide to the Northeast Brett Klein lives in Connecticut and works in New York, but prefers small town life and his home state of Maine. Any chance to get rural is a mental vacation. Follow Klein on Tumblr at The Coast is Clear. His curatorial collection of Americana, rural life, other artists and ephemera can be seen on Tumblr at Tons of Land.