For nearly a century, timber production was the unchallenged king in Bend, most of it taking place in the Old Mill District. Hardy men used axes, crosscut saws, horses, and "high-wheel" rigs to cut down huge Ponderosa pines in the surrounding forests. The first of the big mills, operated by the Shevlin-Hixon Co., opened in March 1916.
A month later a rival company, Brooks-Scanlon, began operations at its "Mill A" complex on the other side of the river. In 1922 Brooks-Scanlon established a new, bigger mill complex upstream from Mill A. This "Mill B" site makes up the largest portion of the Old Mill District. At their peak, the Brooks-Scanlon and Shevlin-Hixon operations were two of the largest pine sawmills in the world, running around the clock and employing more than 2,000 workers each.
In 1950, facing dwindling timber supplies, Shevlin-Hixon sold its interests to Brooks-Scanlon. Brooks-Scanlon's Mill A closed in 1983 and was in a state of near ruin before being restored in the early 1990s. The old brick powerhouse buildings and their three towering smokestacks still stand, silently testifying to the district's colorful past.