Otis Company Mill #1 // 1845

This five-story granite mill building was one of the major catalysts for the 19th century population surge in Ware, Massachusetts. As New England’s fledgling textile industry of the era played a vanguard role in transforming the U.S. into an industrial nation, the significance of this type of mill can hardly be understated. The Otis Mill #1 in Ware is one of the last remaining granite textile mills of this early period in central/western Massachusetts. The mill was built in 1845 for the Otis Company, which initially manufactured woven cotton fabric, but later branched out into stockings, woolen shirts and drawers underwear. The company was Ware’s largest employer for about 100 years! The company prospered thru WWI employing over 2,500 people. During the 1920’s the business began a decline due to the southern state’s mills and lack of modernization. In the mid 30’s the Otis Co sold its property to the citizens of Ware, which they formed Ware Industries, Inc to continue the major employer in the town. Due to this Ware came to be known nation-wide as “The Town That Can’t Be Licked.” The mill is now home to local small businesses as a sort of incubator, providing jobs to local residents!

Lapham Woolen Mill // 1879

I have gotten a lot of requests recently to feature an old New England mill town, and I wanted to highlight a lesser-known one, so here is Millbury, Massachusetts! This gorgeous mill building was constructed between 1879-1919, impacted by over forty years of growth and design. The Lapham Woolen Mill is the largest and most intact 19th century industrial building in Millbury and sits in the middle of Bramanville, an industrial village in the town, off Singletary Brook, a branch of the Blackstone River. The Lapham Woolen Mill was built on the location of the former Burbank paper mills, which were in operation in Bramanville between 1775-1836. The Lapham Woolen Mill was started in the mid-1870s by Mowry A. Lapham, who oversaw the company’s growth after the Civil War, manufacturing clothing and other woolen goods. After Mowry’s death, the company’s pollution into the brook got the best of them and they disbanded, selling it. The mill was then purchased by Josiah and Edward Mayo, and their business partner Thomas Curtis. The group renamed the existing business the Mayo Woolen Company. The complex was occupied by Steelcraft Inc., a manufacturer of medical supplies, until recently. The building’s future was threatened until 2020, when a proposal to restore the old mill, and add new housing on the site was proposed. Fingers and toes are crossed to see this gorgeous building restored!

Dexter Richards and Sons Woolen Mill // 1905

The Dexter Richards and Sons Woolen Mill is the last surviving textile mill in Newport, New Hampshire. It was one of the city’s largest and most successful industries and employers. Built in 1905 on the banks of the Sugar River – which supported industrial activity as early as 1768 – the mill reflects the evolution of water-powered mills throughout the city and the region for more than a century. Designed by Peterborough native Edward A. Buss, Richards Woolen Mill is a typical three-story brick mill building from the early 20th century with granite, brick and metal architectural flourishes; it stands out for its five-story Romanesque tower with three tall arched windows on each side. At the base of the tower, above the entrance, are two slate roundels with the dates “1848” and “1905,” marking when both a previous mill on the site and the existing mill were built. In addition to running the mill, the Richards family was instrumental in establishing the Newport Electric Company (1892) and brought both Western Union Telegraph service (1866) and the Concord & Claremont Railroad (1871) to Newport. Richards and Sons, Inc. dissolved in 1926. The property was purchased by Harry W. Brown and Associates and was renamed the Gordon Woolen Mill. That business made wool linings for Army clothing during World War II. The mill was later owned by William Ruger Jr. an heir to the Ruger Firearms Company. Within the last couple years, the mill was purchased for redevelopment into housing, which has not yet materialized.