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.
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.