Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Mill at the End of the Street

Early Troy was a farming community, surrounded by forests with a river running through it. The forests led to small mills that manufactured wooden ware such as pails, clothes pins, bowls, wooden boxes and handles. At one time a potter and a brickyard thrived in town, and with the benefit of running water, came the establishment of a carding and fulling mill, and woolen and cotton fabric makers. In 1851, Thomas Goodall came to Troy with a big idea. He would open a mill that would manufacture fitted blankets for horses. In 1857 he opened what would later be called Troy Blanket Mills, right next to the river. In 1865, Barrett Ripley and others acquired the mill, and the Ripley family owned the mill until they declared bankruptcy in 2001. In it's early days they made horse blankets and employed 300 people. In their heyday they were making Troy Robes and linings for clothing such as Carhart and Levi Denim jackets. They employed 500 people around 1960 and began manufacturing items for the automobile industry. Due to declining markets and other financial troubles, Troy Mills declared bankruptcy in 2001. *info found here

We moved into our house over Labor Day weekend in 2001. Every weekday morning, at 7:15am  a whistle would blow from somewhere that I could hear from inside my house. I inquired about, as I already had the Town Hall next door, with it's hourly clock chimes, and emergency horn to contend with. I learned that the whistle came from the mill, and it alerted the workers that they were late to work. The whistle blew every morning until sometime in 2002, when it was silenced. Over the years several small companies have operated out of the empty mill building, and in 2008 plans were put into place to renovate the structure into a retirement community. There used to be a website found here, that gave information about what that would look like, and how the plans were coming along, but it has since been taken down. The building was gutted, the EPA came in and did a massive clean up, and then things went bad. Rumor has it there were some shady dealing between the contractor and the select-board that was in charge at the time, and presently there is a citizens group looking into this. Right now, the giant mill stands empty, save the pigeons that perch on it's many rooftops.

While I was researching the history of the mill, I stumbled across a link to 'Troy Robes' on eBay. Curious as to what those could be, I went and had a look. I wasn't sold on the fact that they were authentic Troy blankets, made at our mill, because I couldn't find one that had a tag that said Troy, NH on it anywhere. Then I discovered a seller who had an advertisement from sometime in the 50's that showed the blankets, and referred to them as Troy Robes. Awesome I thought, and I found a blanket in excellent condition for $38 that had just been listed with a 'buy it now' feature and scooped it up. Today I gave it a wash, and it's hanging outside in the shade of the maple trees in the backyard drying, less than a mile away from where it started it's life.


Erin Mcdonald said...

That's an interesting story. There is a mill in Biddeford, Maine, the town where my brother lives. It was a woolen mill for over a century, then it manufactured Vellux blankets. It closed about ten- twenty years ago and unemployment was pervasive.
Now the mill is being revitalized, the Saco River Dyehouse and yarn shop are now located there and a local beer brewing operation will be starting up soon. It is nice to see the buildings in use, especially for yarn dyeing. Quince and Co. Yarn is processed there, as is Swan's Island yarn.
The Dyehouse just wrapped up a successful Kickstarter, they raised over $35,000 for equipment to do organic dyeing. I have written about it in my blog, KnittinginBeantown.
I hope you are enjoying the more temperate weather. It is bearable and breezy here in Boston. I do look forward to the fall though. :/

onescrappychick said...

I love to hear about old mills becoming home for yarn endeavors. Makes my heart happy. Personally, as much as I love fall, I was enjoying the hot summer weather. Our season is so short, and often we get cool, rainy summers. I kind of wish it would come back!