Wauregan Mill // 1853

Located in the Wauregan Village of Plainfield, Connecticut, this massive mill complex is a lasting memory of a neighborhood which once thrived. Like hundreds of mill villages all over New England after WWII, the mill and surrounding neighborhood saw decline with the shift from manufacturing to service jobs paired with the globalization of the U.S economy.

Wauregan, which means “Pleasant Valley” in Mohegan (a native tribe in the area), began in about 1850 when Amos D. Lockwood, bought water privileges and land on the east side of the Quinebaug River in present day Plainville. The Wauregan Mills Company became well-known for their specialty cotton goods, with an emphasis on cotton flannel sheeting. The first mill building was constructed in 1853 of local stone and comprised of a singular four-story building. Within five years, Lockwood sold the mill and the surrounding land for much more than he invested to James S. Atwood, who sought to develop a “model hamlet” around the mill building which would allow factory employees to live and shop near their work.

Worker housing in the village included 104 company-owned buildings containing 255 tenement apartments for rental to workers, plus two boarding houses for unmarried female workers. A railroad station was built in 1859 and a post office was established in 1860. Atwood also expanded the mill at this time and constructed a near-identical structure behind the old building and a small connector between.

On August 1955, torrential rains from Hurricanes Connie and Diane caused many dams along the Quinebaug River to break, including the one at Wauregan. The mill was flooded to the level of the first floor ceilings. Workers tried to salvage as much cloth, raw materials and machinery as they could but ultimately the company lost more than $1,500,000. In 1957, James Arthur Atwood III, grandson of James S. Atwood, and the rest of the company directors decided to cease all operations resulting in the company’s final closing. The building remains vacant to this day.

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