Nevers Blacksmith Shop // c.1860s

While architecturally significant mansions, churches and civic buildings are great, the smaller wood-frame buildings such as this really tell the story of New England. When the town of Sweden, Maine was still in her infancy, the Nevers Family helped to establish the town and diversify its output from the typical agricultural village. Sweden supported an interesting variety of nineteenth century businesses including: general stores, saw mills, copper and cobbler shops, and a straw hat factory. The town of Sweden was distanced from major trade routes, railroads and navigable rivers, so it saw a period of decline from the late 19th to the 20th century. The town has since been a sort of “bedroom community” where people mostly live, but travel outside the town for commerce and work. This blacksmith shop shows us an example of a trade that has largely gone away, but it was a common structure and profession in early America.

S&D Spinning Mill – Singletary Mill // 1847

One of the many large brick mills in Millbury, the S&D Spinning Mill (originally Singletary Mill) sits on Singletary Brook, which historically provided power for the facility. The four-story mill building was constructed in 1846 and is believed to be the oldest extant mill structure in town. Beginning in the late 1820s, successive textile mills used the waterpower here, including the companies: Singletary Manufacturing Company, the Boston & Millbury Company, and Farnum & Jenks. Fires destroyed all mills on this site, sometimes within just a couple years of each other. The last mill was destroyed in 1846, and Mowry Farnum, who owned the site, rebuilt a brick mill here, which is what we see today. After a couple companies occupied the building, the Mayo Woolen Company (which was featured on here previously) purchased this mill in 1910, and renamed the structure Mayo Mill No. 2. In 1961 a newly formed company, S&D Spinning Mill Inc. occupied the building. They are best-known today as the sole-manufacturer of the yarn which fills Major League Baseballs! Manufacturing is not dead in New England!

Newport Tower // c.1670

No structure in Newport is as hotly debated than the “Newport Tower” located in Touro Park. The old stone, cylindrical tower stands like an ancient relic of ancient Europe, just dropped in downtown Newport. For centuries, people have debated the structure’s history and use. Some say this structure was built by Viking masons who visited North America 1,000 years ago, while other theories (more rooted in fact) share another story. The tower was located at the upper end of the plot behind the now-demolished mansion built by Benedict Arnold, the first colonial governor of Rhode Island (his grandson was the infamous Benedict Arnold, the traitor who switched sides to fight with the British. In 1677, Arnold mentions “my stone built Wind Mill” in his will is evidence that the tower was once used as a windmill. However, some state that there is no reference to Arnold ever having the structure built, with some stating that he simply repurposed the building to be used as the base of a windmill. In 1837, Danish archaeologist Carl Christian Rafn proposed a Viking origin for the tower in his book Antiquitates Americanæ. This hypothesis is predicated on the uncertainty of the southward extent of the early Norse explorations of North America, particularly in regard to the actual location of Vinland, where Leif Erikson is believed to have first landed around 1000 CE, nearly five centuries before the voyages of Christopher Columbus and John Cabot.. Rafn’s popularization of the theory led to a flurry of interest and “proofs” of Norse settlement in the area. Mortar tests completed in the 20th century basically prove this theory to be false, and date the structure to the middle of the 1600s, but it is fun to imagine it is much older!

Townsend Industrial School // 1894

Located next to and predating Newport City Hall (a previous post), the Townsend Industrial School building is a great, eclectic Victorian-era building in Newport, that is often overlooked. The school itself evolved from a vocational school for women, that Katherine Prescott Wormeley began in town in 1872. The school taught pupils “not destined for classic education” but taught them skills that they would be able to use in the “real world”. The school was located next to the Rogers High School (demolished in 1957), which provided a more traditional education. The building was designed by Newport architect James C. Fludder and has maintained its stately presence to this day. The building has been acquired by the City of Newport, who added a Post-Modern addition, and it is now known as the Frank E. Thompson Middle School.

Touro Jewish Cemetery and Gate // 1677

Located just a short walk from the oldest extant Jewish synagogue in the United States, Touro Synagogue (last post), the Touro Jewish Cemetery and stately gate, showcase the significance and position Jewish residents held in Newport, going back to Colonial times. The earliest Jews in Newport arrived from Barbados, where a Jewish community had existed since the 1620s. They were of Spanish and Portuguese origin; their families had migrated from Amsterdam and London to Brazil and then to islands in the Caribbean. After the completion of the synagogue in 1763, the Jewish community in Newport realized the need to acquire land for a Jewish cemetery. Two of the original immigrants, Mordechai Campanal and Moses Pacheco purchased the lot at the corner of what is now Kay and Touro Streets for this purpose. In 1843, the cemetery funded the erection of a cemetery gate and fencing to surround the plot. They hired architect Isaiah Rogers to design the gate, which he took inspiration from his design at Boston’s Granary Burying Ground, completed just two years earlier. The Egyptian Revival gate is a very rare example of the style in the United States. On the granite gate, the torches turned to face downward are an acknowledgement of the ending of life’s flame.

Collins Axe Company Factory // 1826-1966

Image courtesy of Keith Thom

The first ready-to-use axes produced in the United States came from the Connecticut-based Collins Company, which was founded in the early 1800s. Prior to the firm’s establishment, consumers either purchased unground axes imported from Europe or looked to a local blacksmith who, along with his other activities, might also make axe heads. The Collins Company factory opened in 1826 by Samuel W. and David C. Collins, with the purchase of an old gristmill and a few acres of land along the Farmington River in Canton. As the company grew, the village of South Canton grew around it, and was later renamed Collinsville after the company (imagine if we had Starbuckstown or Walmartville!) In the 1840s, the company expanded and sold internationally with their machete; it sold more than 150 varieties of machetes in 35 countries, supplying 80% of the world’s machetes at that time. In the 1860s, the company built several dams along the Farmington River to produce hydroelectric power to run its factory. It saw steady growth during World Wars I and II. However, after the Flood of 1955 wiped out the railroad line, the company could not match the foreign competition. Portions of the business were sold to the Stanley Works in New Britain and to other firms. In 1966, the Collins Company closed after 140 years in business. Some of the old buildings along the river have since been demolished, others left vacant. Some have been repurposed into other uses, thankfully.

Old Settlers’ Burying Ground // 1674+

I know.. I know.. It’s not a building, but I couldn’t help myself but to find this hidden cemetery and take some photos! Tucked way off a street, across railroad tracks and down into a grove of trees, I came across this Colonial-era cemetery known as the Old Settlers’ Burying Ground. Established by 1674, it is the town’s oldest formal cemetery with gravestones dispersed, both standing up to the heavens and seemingly jutting out of the ground like crooked teeth. The Old Settlers’ Burying Ground contains approximately 196 stones and an estimated 230 burials. The stones in the cemetery reflect the continuum of headstone iconography popular from the 17th through 19th centuries, depicting winged death’s head, soul effigy, heart, hourglass, skeleton, and cherubs, to name a few. The cemetery is thought to possibly have unmarked graves of the colonists who were killed during the Lancaster Raid, the first in a series of five planned raids on English colonist towns during the winter of 1675 as part of King Philip’s War. Metacom, known by English colonists as King Philip, was a Wampanoag sachem involved in leading and organizing Wampanoag warriors during the war. The tension that led to these raids began from the decline in the fur trade due to overhunting, the decrease in the native population due to European-derived diseases, and the invasion of English livestock on native land. According to one estimate, at least fourteen Lancaster inhabitants died and twenty-three were captured and taken as prisoners, some of those 14 are likely buried here in unmarked graves.

Canterbury Shaker Horse Barn // 1819

This large, shingled horse barn at Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire, was built in 1819 and measures 60 x 40 feet. The massive barn structure showcases the significance of horses and agriculture for the rural community, which lived off the land.

Canterbury Shaker Ministry Privy // c.1845

Everybody poops, even the Shakers. While not the sexiest building or topic, I couldn’t help but share this mid-19th century privy (outhouse) located in the Canterbury Shaker Village. The small clapboard privy measures just 6.5 x 13 feet and has two chambers, which face outward overlooking the apple orchard, making it a great place to do your business!

Canterbury Shaker Bee House // 1837

The original purpose served by this small clapboard building in the Canterbury Shaker Village, built in 1837 and measuring just 12 x 25 feet is subject to some debate, although it was definitely used as a drying house. Early writings indicate it was built as an apple-drying house while others state that the original purpose was to dry lumber. The present off-center gable-roofed cupola on the gable roof served as a ventilator. In 1865, the building became the headquarters of the bee keepers of the local Shakers.