Located at 146 Hartford Road in Manchester is a former office building of the Cheney Brothers silk mills. The office was built in 1910, replacing an earlier office. After the Cheney Brothers mills closed, the building was owned at different times by the electric company and Manchester Community College. Currently it serves as the offices of Fuss & O’Neill, an engineering firm.
A mill was first constructed at the site of the future Hockanum Mill on the Hockanum River in Rockville in Vernon in 1814 by Bingham & Nash. The mill produced satinet, a finely woven fabric that resembles satin but is made from wool. New owners acquired the mill in 1821 and soon expanded it by constructing a mirror image of the earlier building. These became known as the Twin Mills. The Hockanum Company was formed in 1836. They built new and larger mill was built on the site in 1849. After it burned down in 1854, it was rebuilt the following year to the same design. A wood-frame Greek Revival structure on a brick basement, it is the only wood-framed mill building surviving in Rockville. In 1881, the Hockanum Company built a three and a half story brick Romanesque Revival building, adjacent to the original wooden structure.
After George Maxwell became president of the company in 1869, he converted the mill’s production over to a higer-quality worsted cloth for menswear. By the turn-of-the-century the company was booming under the presidency of George Sykes. It produced the cloth for the inaugural suit worn by President William H. McKinley in 1897. The Hockanum Mill consolidated with three other Rockville mills in 1906 forming the Hockanum Mills Company, which was sold to M.T. Stevens in 1934. The Rockville mills were shut down in 1951. The Hockanum Mill recently received funds from the state to assist in the cleanup and reuse of the building for commercial and light industrial purposes. The site is also planned to be the home of the proposed New England Motorcycle Museum.
The oldest parts of the Plume & Atwood Manufacturing Company‘s factory in Thomaston date to 1853. In that year, clockmaker Seth Thomas, who was unhappy buying brass for his clocks from companies in Waterbury, built his own brass mill on the Naugatuck River. In 1869 a new company was organized, Holmes, Booth & Atwood, which purchased the factory with the agreement that they would continue to supply brass for Seth Thomas clocks. The founders of the company had left the Waterbury firm of Holmes, Booth & Haydens and Hiram W. Hayden sued them over the fact that their new company’s name resembled the existing company’s name too closely. In 1871, the new group took the name Plume & Atwood–David Scott Plume was the company’s treasurer. The factory buildings were severely damaged in the 1955 flood. Since the late 1950s, other companies have utilized the old factory. Read the rest of this entry »
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.