Leonard Silk Company Mill (1875)

November 11th, 2017 Posted in East Windsor, Industrial, Italianate

The factory building at 132 Main Street at Warehouse Point, East Windsor, was built in 1875 by the Leonard Silk Company. Founded by J. N. Leonard in Rockville, the company produced thread from raw Japanese Silk. The industrial history of the site the Leonard Silk mill goes back to 1804, when Brazail Sexton started a woolen mill. The East Windsor Woolen Mill later failed and the property was acquired by Jehiel Simonds in 1870. The Leonard Silk Company became a tenant of the five-story building, along with the Barber & Chapin Silk Company. Not long after moving in, the building burned down in a dramatic fire on the evening of December 16, 1874. The fire had threatened the neighboring gas works, which were saved, preventing a disastrous explosion. Leonard’s company soon rebuilt, as reported in the Hartford Courant (under “State Correspondence”) on January 26, 1875:

It was two weeks after the fire before they concluded on their present course; and in the short time which has elapsed they have accomplished an astonishing amount of work, in the way of erecting a dye-house and fitting up new quarters with power, machinery, &c., necessary to conduct their business.

To protect against fire, the new factory utilized a sprinkler system, supplied from a water tank in the bell tower. The tower also contained a 780-pound bell, cast in 1868 in Sheffield, England. Leonard soon expanded his business, partnering with Luther J. Warren to expand the Warner silk mill at Northampton, Mass. As described in Picturesque Hampshire (1890):

Mr. Leonard came here fresh from his well known triumphs at Warehouse Point, Conn., where, as is generally known, he had the name of making a full honest weight of silk to the spool, and the very best in the market at that. Mr. Leonard has brought to Northampton the same spirit of intense application and painstaking attention which distinguished him in Connecticut

An addition to the Warehouse Point mill was constructed in 1887 and two more in the early twentieth century. The silk mill closed in 1940 and the bell was sold in 1960. Various companies have since occupied the building, most recently Keystone Paper & Box Company, Inc.

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