Cumberland Engineering formerly Howard & Bullough American Machine Co.

current events

I only recently learned that this building will be torn down. Articles from the Sun Chronicle (South-Eastern Massachusetts) report the facts of the matter, which is that neglect over many years has left the structure in shambles. How bad it got is hard to say, as there were still tenants in it up until it was condemned.

In the News

Tearing down old Attleboro plant a lengthy task

Posted: Saturday, June 13, 2015 2:30 am. BY RICK FOSTER SUN CHRONICLE STAFF

ATTLEBORO – The demolition of one of the most iconic relics of the city’s industrial past is expected to stretch over the next several months. Preliminary work began Friday at the condemned century-old Cumberland Engineering factory on Roddy Road, Building Inspector Doug Semple said. However, a worker on site said work to actually tear down the four-story, 500,000-square-foot brick building probably will not start right away.

Crews are planning to salvage recyclable materials, such as wooden beams, before knocking down the structure. According to permits filed with environmental officials, demolition could take up to six months, Semple said.

The building formerly housed a plastics manufacturing machinery company. More recently, it was home to a variety of small businesses. The rambling, brick factory was condemned by city officials last year because of a host of safety and structural hazards, and about 20 businesses were forced to relocate. Atlantic Coast Dismantling has been hired by building owner Roddy Road LLC to raze the structure, which is set on a 19-acre parcel near Interstate 95.

City inspectors closed the building in May 2014 after the the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration raised concerns about its condition, which inspectors described as "falling apart."

The building was part of the industrial legacy of the late inventor and plastics mogul Fred M. Roddy. Roddy, although comparatively little-known today, was one of a small number of industrial titans, including Rathbun Willard of Metals & Controls, jewelry maker L.G. Balfour and inventor Frank Mossberg, whose local enterprises employed thousands of workers and whose day-to-day decisions exerted an outsize influence on the city’s economy.

Roddy invented machinery used to granulate plastic so that it could later be molded into any shape. The devices continue to be sold internationally. He formed Cumberland Engineering in Kingsport in 1939. Later, the company moved to Attleboro.

A 1927 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Roddy was a major benefactor of the university. His bequest of $500,000 led to creation of a scholarship foundation that has distributed over 4,000 scholarships to UT-Knoxville students since 1972, according to the university’s website. ACS Group purchased Cumberland Engineering in 1999.

Pawtucket or Attleboro?

Posted: Sunday, June 28, 2015 12:30 am

Modern maps put the gigantic Howard & Bullough American Machine Co. building on a 20-acre parcel bordered by Turner Street to the north, Mann Street to the south, Branch Street in Pawtucket to the west and Interstate 95 to the east — more or less.

But, what’s its address?

That’s a source of endless confusion. The city assessor has it as 0 Pleasant View St. The problem is, there’s no such street in Attleboro, real or on paper, according to the planning office. A document published by the Massachusetts Historical Commission put the factory on Turner Street at Pleasant View Street. But the map included in the commission publication puts Pleasant View in Pawtucket, and not near an intersection with Turner in Attleboro.

Furthermore, a call to the Pawtucket Planning Office determined there’s no Pleasant View Street in that city, either. There’s a Pleasant View Way, but it’s not near the factory.

News reports in Pawtucket’s Evening Times in 1894 put the location of H & B on Pleasant View, so it’s possible it was once a street, but not anymore. Meanwhile, the road that runs parallel to the building’s original front door is Mann Street in Attleboro.

But, that leads to more confusion.

On some maps, the road is alternatively referred to as Mann Street and Fred Roddy Avenue. And in a larger issue, anyone who did not live in Attleboro or Pawtucket would have thought the plant was in Pawtucket. The company listed Pawtucket as its location on most – if not all – of its literature. It also listed offices in Boston, Atlanta and Charleston, S.C. All of those came with street addresses, however, except for Pawtucket.

Clearly, Pawtucket officials were disappointed the plant was not built in their city. While the factory is only about 100 feet to 200 feet from the Pawtucket line, that’s not good enough to reap tax revenue. So, Pawtucket officials did what any reasonable municipal officials would do: They tried to get it moved. Not the plant, the state line.

In 1898, a special commission representing both states discussed changing the border. A report in The Evening Times does not say why the discussions were under taken, but it was plain one of the goals was to get H & B out of Massachusetts and into Rhode Island. Needless to say, Attleboro didn’t like the idea.

The plant apparently got a 10-year tax break from Attleboro, but by 1911 it was producing the equivalent today of a half-million dollars a year in tax money. So, seeing money on the horizon, the city said: "No."

This is how The Evening Times put it on March 31, 1898:

"There was objection on the part of some of the residents of Attleboro, and the Massachusetts commissioners could not see their way clear to granting the request.

"This was one of the things that was important to the Rhode Island members, and it was hoped for the benefit of Pawtucket that this could be done, but the commissioners of Massachusetts would not make any agreement which would include the works within the Rhode Island line."

Demolition was under way

Posted: Saturday, August 29, 2015 2:01 am | Updated: 11:08 pm, Sat Aug 29, 2015. BY GEORGE W. RHODES SUN CHRONICLE STAFF

ATTLEBORO — Demolition of the historic Howard & Bullough American Machine Co. building in South Attleboro — known more recently as the Cumberland Engineering site — has begun in earnest.

An engineer supervising the work filed a report with the city on Friday documenting progress of the job, which has been slow because many materials from the structure, which was built in 1894 to house a textile machinery plant, will be reused or recycled. The process of demolition began June 12. Coincidentally, June 12 is the day construction began on the mammoth plant 121 years ago.

It was well over 300 feet long and eventually contained 500,000 square feet of floor space, according to assessor records. The engineer, Dan Campbell from Level Design Group in Plainville, reported that the building has been cleaned and that materials targeted for reuse have been removed. Materials intended for recycling have also been taken out, he said.

Meanwhile, demolition of the "last building" on the west side of the property has begun. The two buildings facing Interstate 95 will be the last to be torn down, he said.

H & B, which is located in a remote corner of South Attleboro on what is now Fred Roddy Avenue on the border of Pawtucket, was the city’s largest employer, with as many as 1,100 people holding jobs at any one time well into the first quarter of the last century. It was also the city’s biggest taxpayer for years, shelling out the equivalent in today’s cash of $500,000 a year.

H & B, which in more recent times has been known as Cumberland Engineering, was condemned last year after city officials determined that it was "falling apart." A number of businesses renting space were forced out.

Christina Holden-Shea Apr 30 2019 My grandfather worked there as a tool designer and some level of supervisor. Robert Holden (B. 1901 Lancashire UK, D. 1969 Pawtucket, RI) He worked under both named companies. My father said that they were comfortable enough that during the Great Depression, his father was able to purchase three new cars during its span. They also lived three generations and a great aunt in one bungalow house on Monroe Street in Pawtucket.

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