Atlantic Mills

A long-standing and intact example of mill architecture from the late 1800s, available as studio and commercial space

About this Property

#Current Events

Atlantic Mills, almost 20 years after these photos were taken, is still home to the Big Top Flea market and various industrial and commercial spaces. Some windows have been replaced and upgraded, but largely, the Mills and their condition are the same.

#History

From the “Industrial Sites and Commercial Buildings Survey (ICBS)” by PPS and the AIA, 2001-2002, hosted by ProvPlan.org (now defunct)

Atlantic Mills is a complex of buildings fronting on Manton Avenue with the Woonasquatucket River, its original power source, running behind the complex. The main building (120 Manton Avenue; 1871 and 1882) is a three-and-one-half-story, brick building notable for its two domed towers and granite balustrades; one cupola survives. Other buildings include a four-story brick mill (1871), a three-story brick mill (1893) designed by F.P. Sheldon, and a four-story brick mill (1899). The Woonasquatucket River passes through the complex with at least three small bridge crossings of steel beam construction.

25 Aleppo Street stands a gasometer and storehouse associated with Atlantic Mills. The 50’ diameter brick structure was constructed in 1852 and connects to a mid-twentieth century, one-story brick and cinderblock building fronting on Manton Avenue. Originally used as a gasholder by Providence Gas Company (see separate entries) in a process of releasing flammable gas from the heating of coal in a retort, the structure was later used as storage for Atlantic Mills. Gasworks were commonly associated with large-scale textile mills of the nineteenth century. The structure was built at the same time as the earliest of the Atlantic Mill buildings across Aleppo Street. This facility is one of three surviving gas plants in the city of Providence (others are located in Elmwood and the Wanskuck Historic District). Further down Aleppo Street (plat 63, lot 441) is a one-story, hip-roof, brick building with corbelling below a wood cornice. This building was part of the gas manufacturing plant and, along with the gasometer, was part of the Atlantic Delaine complex across the street.

The original Atlantic Delaine factory was located near the junction of Hartford, Plainfield, and Manton streets. The company was founded in 1851 by General C.T. James to manufacture delaine — a wool muslin, which was one of the earliest mass produced worsteds. In 1863 the company commissioned architect Clifton A. Hall to design a new mill. What was built was a three-story, brick, pier-and-spandrel style mill on Manton Avenue. It had an unusual round-domed tower that was topped by a glass lantern. This mill had its own gasometer, as the company chartered its own gas company, and built the complete works to supply light for its mills. The worsted mill contained rooms for worsted, spinning, spoiling, warping, and dressing. It also had a water tank on the roof and fireproof vaults in the basement to store wool and other goods.

The company went bankrupt in the Panic of 1873 and the buildings were eventually sold at auction and incorporated as Atlantic Mills by the new owners. In 1882 a new mill was erected next to the 1863 building, and was almost identical (including the domed tower).

Over time other buildings were added to the complex, including a four-story brick mill for dyeing and finishing, a three-story worsted mill, a brick office building, and another four-story brick mill. This last building had segmental arch windows, granite sills, and a slightly pitched roof.

By the late 1880s the company was known for its worsted and cotton-wrap fabrics. The Atlantic Mills operation was the largest in Providence, employing over 2000 workers and its impressive mill complex was a noted Olneyville landmark. The company expanded into khaki manufacturing at the turn of the twentieth century (which proved successful since the government used khaki to manufacture uniforms). Atlantic Mills was bought out by the A.D. Julliard Company in 1904, who continued to run it for nearly fifty years until it, like many New England textile companies, went out of business (Woodward 1986; RIHPHC 1981; Kulik 1978).

Today the former worsted mill complex is used by a variety of commercial enterprises. Some of the businesses located there include a furniture store, a carpet warehouse, and a nightclub.