The town of Coventry was once home to a number of water-powered mills. One in South Coventry, known as the Kenyon Mill, was built next to a mill pond in 1863, replacing an earlier mill (built in 1836) that had suffered a major fire. The mill was acquired by C. H. Kenyon from S. R. Moredock, manufacturer of satinet, in 1864. Kenyon had begun making woolen pants (Kentucky jeans) in Coventry in the 1840s and by 1870 his mill had developed into a major enterprise with over seventy employees. He later made ladies dress flannels. After Kenyon, a series of textile manufacturers occupied the mill, ending with National Silk, manufacturers of Tioga yarn, which occupied the building from 1934 until 1972. In more recent years the town was seeking proposals for the adaptive reuse of the mill. In 2007 it was acquired by the Corporation for Independent Living, which has converted it into condominium units known as Kenyon Falls.
At 153 Main Street in Ansonia is a large former factory building that was built c. 1900 by the Ansonia Osborne and Cheeseman Company. As described in The History of the Old Town of Derby, Connecticut, 1642-1880 (1880), by Samuel Orcutt:
Osborn and Cheeseman conducted a mercantile business in Birmingham some years, and in 1858 went into the hoop-skirt business at that place, and removed to Ansonia in 1859. In 1866 the Osborn and Cheeseman Company was organized with a capital stock of $120,000. Charles Durand was president of the company until 1875, when he sold his interest in the enterprise. The company now manufactures a great variety of goods, such as sheet and brass ware, gilding metal, German silver, copper and German-silver wire, seamless ferrules, and other kinds of metallic goods, which are sold in all parts of the United States.
Attached to the factory on the Main Street side is a yellow brick Neoclassical Revival former company office building (pictured above), erected c. 1910 with a third floor added sometime later. The entire factory building is now known as the Palmer Building because Palmer Brothers Trucking was located there, with other businesses, from 1955 to 1985. The building was then acquired by the City of Ansonia, but remained vacant, except for the Doyle Senior Center on the ground floor, for years as the city tried to sell it to a developer. There are now plans to convert the property for apartments and retail use.
The Windham Textile and History Museum (411 Main Street in Willimantic) presents the nineteenth and early twentieth century history of Willimantic’s textile industry, focusing on the Willimantic Linen Company, whose former mill buildings are located just across the street. These mills were later owned by the American Thread Company. In 1985 they were acquired by developer Jonathan Dugan. The museum opened in 1989 in two buildings erected by the company in 1877 and donated by Dugan in 1986. One is the former company store (pictured above), which had a library for workers on the third floor called Dunham Hall. The other (pictured below) is called the Dugan Mill, the upper floor of which was added during the first decade of the twentieth century to be used as the headquarters for the American Thread Fire Brigade. It later became a meeting hall which was recently restored for use by the museum.
In 1892 the Ensign-Bickford Company of Simsbury acquired a half interest in the Climax Fuse Company of Avon. By 1907 the companies merged. Following its practice in Simsbury, Ensign-Bickford erected housing for its workers in Avon, including a number of houses built c. 1913 around a small green called Farmington Court. Unusually for the time these were mostly single-family homes instead of multi-family tenements. This was part of a new movement in which industrial companies began erecting suburban-type neighborhoods for their workers. Farmington Court was renamed Columbus Circle in 1930, but which time the residents were primarily Italian-Americans. The Prince Thomas of Savoy Society, an Italan-American social club, built its headquarters nearby in 1932.
The older section (which has a window in the gable-end) of the building at 104 Baileyville Road in Middlefield was built in 1876 by George W. Miller for his bone and phosphate mill. The building was later vacant for some years until it was acquired by the Lyman Gun Sight Corporation in 1921. The company remodeled the building in 1927 for the making of telescopic scopes for rifles. A dam was built which created a pond, called Scope Shop Pond, to power the factory (it’s now used by the town for fire protection). Additions to the building were constructed in the 1930s and 1940s. The picture above was taken in 2014, when the building was having work done. The current owner hopes to revitalize this and the former Lyman Gun Sight Factory on West Street. Read the rest of this entry »
The unusual building at 926-940 Farmington Avenue in Kensington was built c. 1875 by the brothers, Augustine F. Wooding and Ralph A. Wooding. They started a business making dog collars, later expanding to harness trimmings and saddlery hardware. In the 1896, they built a dam and pond and were granted a contract to supply water to trains on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. The building’s tower was then erected to serve as a water tower. Known as the Tower House, in later years the building was used as apartments. Read the rest of this entry »
When the historic Silvermine Tavern, located in the Silvermine section of Norwalk, closed in 2009, it was the end of an 80 year local institution. Several buildings make up the original Silvermine Tavern complex, including an old mill with origins in the seventeenth century, a coach house and a gatehouse that has since been attached to the main Tavern building. This structure has a plaque indicating that it was built c. 1810 as the Joseph Cocker Cotton Factory. Cocker’s business was an expensive undertaking and when he passed away unexpectedly in 1812 he left an estate that was heavily in debt. His widow Sally died the following year and Stephen Abbott acquired the property, but he too fell into debt and sold it in 1816 to his son. By that time the building had had new wings constructed for living quarters and a weaving shop. The factory continued on under various owners until, including David Comstock, who manufactured hats, until it was acquired in the 1850s by Henry Guthrie, an immigrant from England who owned a shipyard and three water-powered mills. Guthrie produced knobs for doors and furniture and local girls sanded, varnished and packed them for shipping in what would become the Tavern’s living room.
Otto Goldstein purchased the building in 1906. He also owned the nearby Red Mill, built c. 1800, which he used for his fur processing business. Goldstein lived in the former factory where he also had a taproom where he sold drinks to the local community of Silvermine, which was then becoming an artists’ colony. With the repeal of Prohibition, J. Kenneth Byard bought the property in 1929 and named it the Silvermine Tavern, offering dining and overnight accommodations. Ownership of the Tavern passed to I.M. Weiss in 1948. The Whitman family operated it from 1955 until the restaurant closed in 2009. It then continued for a few years as a bed & breakfast.
In 2013-2014 the property was acquired by developer Andrew Glazer, who is currently redeveloping the site. He renovated the store to become his new office and the mill house (called the Red Mill, it once had a water wheel) next to the Tavern to become his residence. He also built four new houses and a community barn on the Tavern’s old parking lot, the profits from them to support the next phase of the project, which is to extensively modernize and eventually reopen the Tavern itself. The interior is being gutted and the restaurant adapted from the sprawling space that seated 200 to a new space that will seat 60. The picture above was taken in 2014, before the current renovation work on the main Tavern building began earlier this year.