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.