Located on Cooley Avenue between Main Street Extension and East Main Street in Middletown is a former factory building, erected between 1871 and 1874 by L.D. Brown & Son. As related in The Silk Industry in America (1876), by L.P. Brockett,
L. D. Brown started in the manufacture of skein silk at Gurleyville, Conn., in 1850, in partnership with James Royce, and occupying the mill built by the latter in 1848, which has been referred to. In 1853 Mr. Brown bought the mill then occupied by the Conant Brothers, (already mentioned,) in the same locality, and continued the manufacture of skein silk there until 1865, when he took his son into partnership, sold the mill at Gurleyville to William E. Williams, and bought the William Atwood Mill at Atwoodville. In 1871, L. D. Brown & Son erected a new mill for themselves at Middletown, Conn., and sold the Atwoodville Mill to Macfarlane Brothers. They now manufacture principally machine twist and skein and spool sewing-silk. Their silk has an excellent reputation for strength and purity of dye. In February, 1875, they opened a New York house. Their brands are ” L. D. Brown & Son,” “Middletown Mills,” “Paragon,” and ” Connecticut Valley.” The junior partner, H. L. Brown, has made some inventions of considerable value to the silk industry, including an improvement in winding soft silk, which has been introduced into a number of silk mills, and a new method of silk spooling and weighing.
The Middletown factory was constructed in the city’s South Farms area, which was undergoing considerable industrial development after the Civil War. The original building was expanded later in the nineteenth century and again in the twentieth century. L.D. Brown & Son went into receivership to wind up the company’s affairs in 1903. Several other manufacturers have occupied the building over the years and it is now home to Estate Treasures. Part of the structure was demolished in 2011, with the rest perhaps to follow at some point in the future.
At 17 Shipyard Road in Middle Haddam is the former Parker and Judson Factory. Built in 1865, the factory produced hardware, toys and silk ribbons. In 1909 it was converted into a residence. Next to the former factory is the old Parker and Judson stone dam, constructed before 1830.
Seth Thomas (1785-1859) established his famous clock company in Plymouth Hollow (later renamed Thomaston in his honor) in 1813, buying out Heman Clark’s clockmaking business there. Thomas had previously worked with Eli Terry and Silas Hoadley in Plymouth. The company continued to expand during his lifetime and after his death, becoming one of America’s longest lived clock companies. The main Seth Thomas Clock Company building, which succeeded earlier structures, was built in 1915 (Note: I determined the date of the factory’s construction from a Sanborn Insurance map.). Located on South Main Street in Thomaston, it is a sprawling complex that was added to over the years. In 1931 the company became a division of General Time Instruments Corporation, later known as General Time Corporation. From World War II until 1967, the factory also made marine timing and navigational devices for the military as a defense plant. The factory was severely damaged in the Flood of 1955, but reopened the following year. In 1970, the company was taken over by Talley Industries of Seattle, Washington, which closed the Thomaston plant and moved all operations to Norcross, Georgia in 1979-1982. The old factory soon reopened as an industrial park for various small manufacturers.
The Capewell Horse Nail Company was founded in 1881 by George Capewell, who invented an improved machine for making horseshoe nails. Located next to the old Capewell factory in Hartford is the company’s office building (60 Popieluszko Court, formerly Governor Street), built around 1900. Designed by an unknown architect, the office building features an elaborate brick, brownstone and terra-cotta façade.
In circa 1825-1826, Lambert Hitchcock built the three-story brick factory in Riverton (Barkhamsted) where his company produced the famous Hitchcock Chairs. The two-story wing on the east side of the factory was added in 1848 to replace the original wheel house (the factory used water power from the Farmington River) that was destroyed by fire. Hitchcock eventually left the company, but the factory continued to be used to manufacture chairs until 1864, being used to make other products afterwards. In 1946, John Kenny bought the old factory and started a new Hitchcock Chair Company. He added the pedimented storefront to the ell of the building facing School Street around 1950. The company finally closed in 2006, but new owners acquired rights to the Hitchcock name and designs in 2010 and a factory store soon reopened in Riverton.
In a 1821 a two-story wood framed mill building was constructed on the future site of the Springville Mill, 155 West Main Street in Rockville, Vernon. As related in the Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties (1903):
A mill-wheel was at once erected, and from the beginning the plant was devoted to the manufacture of satinets. In 1826 it had become the property of Augustus Grant and Warren McKinney, the former (Grant) having a two-thirds, the latter, a one-third interest, the firm style being Grant & McKinney. On Aug. 21, 1826, Warren McKinney bought one-third of his partner’s interest, and on Aug. 3, 1827, the remainder of that interest, becoming sole proprietor. On March 20, 1832. he sold the property to David McKinney and Rufus S. Abbev. On July 4th, following, they sold to Alonzo Bailey, Chauncey Winchell, Christopher Burdick and Isaac L. Sanford.
These partners organized the Springville Manufacturing Company in 1833. Chauncey Winchell served as president of the company for 52 years. In 1886 the company was purchased by George Maxwell and George Sykes, who replaced the old wooden mill with a four-story brick building devoted to the manufacture of fine worsted wool. The new mill, which had large windows, gas and electric lighting and automatic sprinklers, was considered to be a model manufacturing building for its time. The Springville Manufacturing Company later merged with three other mills to form the Hockanum Company Mills Company, which constructed an addition to the Springville Mill offices in 1909. As related in “Centennial of Vernon,” by Harry Conklin Smith, which appeared in The Connecticut Magazine, Vol. XII, No. 2, (1908):
To show the great reputation of the goods produced in the factories of the Hockanum Mills Company, it may be said that they have made suits to be worn at the inauguration by three different presidents of the United States The Springville Company, having made the suit worn by President Harrison, the Hockanum, President McKinley’s, and the Springville Company, President Roosevelt’s.
In 1934, the Hockanum Mills Company’s holdings were sold to M.T. Stevens and Sons of North Andover, Massachusetts. The Springville Mill ceased its manufacturing operations in 1951 and the building has since been converted into apartments.
Down Johnsonville Road from the Emory Johnson Homestead in Moodus, East Haddam, is a surviving building of the Neptune Twine Mills, owned by Emory Johnson and then, after his death in 1896, by his son, E. Emory Johnson. The area around Johnson’s mills was known as Johnsonville. In the “Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the Year Ended November 30, 1903” (printed in Public Documents of the State of Connecticut, Vol. I, 1903; published in 1904), a picture of the building is captioned “Neptune Twine and Cord Mill, No. 3, Moodus.” The report describes the other two mill buildings as follows:
The Neptune Twine and Cord Mills, Inc., property consists of two mills, the upper one of which was constructed by Emory Johnson. In 1862 he constructed this mill, and began the manufacture of twines, and though the civil war was then in progress this mill did a successful business, and was the only one in town in operation during the entire period. The lower mill, in which Mr. Johnson had formerly an interest, again came into his possession in 1867. This mill, which was erected by Mr. Johnson’s father-in-law (Stanton S. Card), is now known as the Neptune. The name of “Neptune,” as applied to these mills, was adopted in 1864. The upper mill is 34×80 feet on the ground floor, and has two stories. On the first floor is done the carding. Its motive power is a 36-inch turbine water wheel of seventy-five horse power. The lower mill is 36×80 feet, and has four floors: on the first floor, carding, etc.: second floor, the spinning; third floor, the twisting, winding up, and on the fourth floor, the packing, baling, etc. The motive power is water, and has a force of one hundred horse power. The mills employ forty hands and consume 19,000 pounds per week. They manufacture soft and hard twines, cable cords, etc., etc.
The firm was incorporated in 1902, and the present officers are as follows: E. Emory Johnson, president and treasurer; Matthew W. Plumstead, vice president; Elsie S. Johnson, secretary and assistant treasurer.
The upper mill, known as Triton, was destroyed by fire 1924 and the lower mill, dating to 1832, was also lost in a fire in 1972. The surviving mill building (No. 3) was built in 1899 and included the mill’s office and a Post Office. As related in Fibre and Fabric, Vol. XXXV, No. 908 (July 26, 1902):
Mr. Johnson takes great pride in the appearance of his property, and the village of Johnsonville is a model of neatness. The main offices of the mills are located near the Neptune mill and are sumptuous in their appointments. In the office building is the Johnson library, containing 3,000 volumes, opened in the fall of 1899, which is free to all the employees of the mills as well as to the employees of the other factories. There is also a smoking room in the building and a room where the records of the mill for 70 years are kept. All are neat and tasty in their appointments. Mr. Johnson’s enterprise is commendable and thoughtful in promoting the welfare of the employees of the Neptune mills and is appreciated.