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The Village Tour

View of the stone cotton mill built by David Page on the northeast bank of Otter Creek, ca. 1880s.

The stone cotton mill built by David Page on the northeast bank of Otter Creek, ca. 1880s. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, Averill Collection

34 — 42 Main Street The site of David Page's cotton mill, built in 1811. Of limestone and marble, this building was three stories high on Main Street and six toward the creek. Here in 1817 Joseph Gordon assembled twenty power looms from plans he had brought with him from Scotland and which he claimed to be the second set of power looms ever built in the country (after six built the previous year in Rhode Island). In 1850 there were one hundred looms in the mill, with a daily capacity to produce 1600 yards of heavy sheeting and up to 800 pounds of yarn. In 1854 the mill burned and was refurbished as a flour mill. After the fire of 1891, Joseph Battell, who built the present structure on the site, bought the mill ruins and used the stone for the foundations of the Battell Block. The lowest level of the old cotton mill was renovated in 1898 as the power house for the Brandon Italian Marble Company's new mills.

44 Main Street Site of Gamaliel Painter's grist mill, sold in 1807 to Lavius Fillmore and David Page, who replaced it with a stone structure in 1808. Here Fillmore designed an ingenious, rock-cut inlet, outlet, and flume system below water level and free from the worries of ice or flood. Portions of the system undoubtedly remain in the ruins on the creek bank behind the present building. The mill, which had five sets of grindstones and a capacity to process 80,000 bushels of grain a year, burned in 1854.

48 – 50 Main Street Site of Jabez Rogers' store, built in 1790. The first store in Addison County.

Middlebury Falls on Otter Creek, ca. 1880s.

Middlebury Falls on Otter Creek, ca. 1880s. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, General Collection

Middlebury Falls From the west side of the Main Street Bridge one can get an impressive view of Middlebury Falls and the eddy down below (across from what is known as Frog Hollow). An even better view of the falls and remnants of the many penstocks which carried water to the mills can be gained by turning down Mill Street (or Frog Hollow Road) and looking out from the lane between the back of the Main Street stores and the Craft Center or by proceeding further downstream to the new Marble Works footbridge.

View looking northwest down Mill Sreet, undated.

ABOVE View looking northwest down Mill Sreet, undated. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, General Collection

BELOW The woodworking shop owned by Clinton Smith and William Allen in Frog Hollow, ca. 1880s. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, Averill Collection

The woodworking shop owned by Clinton Smith and William Allen in Frog Hollow, ca. 1880s.

Mill Street (Frog Hollow Road) Turning down Mill Street, one enters the once vital world of Middlebury manufacturing. The area at one time was crowded with industrial buildings of all sorts and range of permanence, from workers' tenements and flimsy drying sheds to solid stone structures; however, it experienced almost as many fires, rebuildings, and remodelings as did Main Street. The few structures that still remain invoke the town's industrial past.

This is the area claimed by Daniel Foot in competition with Gamaliel Painter and the site of Foot's saw and grist mills of 1784 (located approximately where the stone mill building now stands). Foot eventually divided his property between his sons Appleton and Stillman. Both brothers operated saw and grist mills, in time selling them and their land to the men who really developed this side of Middlebury Village.

Craft Center On the site of Stillman Foot's sawmill, which burned in 1831, this frame building was constructed in 1870 as paper mill. Since then it has burned and been rebuilt six times. In the 1880s and 90s it housed Smith and Allen's woodworking shop, where were produced many of the Victorian architectural details to be found in this region. Subsequently, from about 1900 it was the woodworking mill of Rogers and Wells until its renovation in 1971 as the Frog Hollow Craft Center, a privately sponsored educational and marketing center for a wide range of arts and crafts. In 1975, it was named Vermont State Center for the Crafts, the first state craft center in the country.

Old Stone Mill On the approximate site of Daniel Foot's first mill. Here Stillman Foot built a grist mill, which was purchased in 1801 by John Warren and converted about 1813 into a cotton factory with the addition of a large stone structure. A description of 1821 proves the latter to have been virtually identical to the present building. Under Warren it housed 600 spindles and eight looms. Adjacent to the mill on the south was a frame tenement for the workers. Damaged by fire and weak foundations in 1825 and 1836, the stone building was reconstructed about 1840 in its present form by the Middlebury Manufacturing Company for the production of woolens. The conversion from cotton to wool was in reaction to local circumstances. Merino sheep had been imported into Addison County from Spain early in the century and proved to do very well in Vermont's rocky pastures. By 1840 the County had more sheep per acre and was producing more wool than any other in the country. It followed quite logically, then, that this wool should be turned into finished goods in Middlebury. Unfortunately the farmers of Addison County began to concentrate on raising and selling breeding stock, helping to develop the great western herds that eventually put them out of business. By 1890 wool had been displaced as an industry by electricity in the old mill, as the Middlebury Electric Company used the power of the falls to generate the current that enabled converting the village from kerosene to electric street lights. Along with its multiple uses, the mill has suffered from a number of fires since its 1840 rebuilding, but it is still essentially intact. At the time of the national bientennial, it was restored and adapted for commercial use.

Star Grist Mill Another adaptive reuse of a building from Middlebury's industrial past can be found across the street from the Old Stone Mill. It was built in 1837 as a woolen mill for Moses Leonard, with great stone foundations set against the steep side of the Hollow and a two-story frame structure above. It was damaged by fire in 1875 and rebuilt as the Star Grist Mill using the original timbers. Water from a branch of the huge penstock serving the Old Stone Mill turned turbines in the basement (still operative in the 1930s) and then was discharged into the Hollow.

Frog Hollow Farther into the Hollow were to be found other industries significant to Middlebury's livelihood. Here, beginning in 1794, could be found forges and gun smithies. In 1796 Ebenezer Markham opened the first nail factory in Vermont. In Jonathan Nichols' shop in 1799 – 1800 was discovered a subsequently patented (1802) and widely-used process for welding cast steel. In Benjamin Lawrence's shop between 1821 – 1825, John Deere served his apprenticeship before moving westward to Illinois. An archaeological dig in the spring and summer of 1975 located the foundations of Lawrence's shop and turned up many interesting tools and artifacts from the site (now in the Sheldon Museum).

It was in the Hollow, too, that Vermont's marble industry was born. In 1802 Eben Judd (with the apparent collaboration of the then ten-year-old Isaac Markham) developed a machine for the sawing of marble. Judd built a small test operation that year in the Hollow adjacent to a ready supply of marble. In 1806 the mill was expanded to hold sixty of the soft iron saws, and in 1808 it was made still larger. Much of the marble used was quarried in the Hollow and from the bed of the creek above the falls, though other varieties were brought from neighboring towns (especially Shoreham). Between 1808 and 1837, Judd's mill sawed between five and ten thousand feet of marble slab a year, which was then turned into tombstones, carrier's tables, jambs, mantlepieces, hearths, window and door caps and sills, sideboards, tables, sinks, etc. and shipped to markets from Quebec to Georgia. In 1810 Dr. Timothy Dwight of Yale wrote of the marble works: "A quarry of marble has been discovered in the bank of the river just below the bridge, a continuation of the ledge which forms the falls. It is both white and dove-colored, elegantly variegated, and of finer texture than any other, which has been wrought hitherto in the United States. It is sawn, ground and polished by water machinery, and is cut and curved with an elegance not surpassed on this side of the Atlantic." The operation essentially halted in 1837 with the deaths of both Judd and his son-in-law and partner Lebbeus Harris. The marble deposit at the falls, riddled with fractures and weak layers, was originally considered economically attractive because it could be easily quarried by primitive hand tools. With the later development of steam-powered quarrying machinery, other sides with sounder deposits became popular and quarrying at the falls was never resumed.

In 1851 N.H. Hand opened a wooden pail factory in the Judd building, turning out up to 600 pails, butter tubs, and the like a day. As it rises on the far side of the Hollow, Mill Street passes the Sheldon Tenement House (1868), the last extant example of housing built in the Hollow for the workers in the local mills.

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