James S. Brown Machine Shop

also known as Atlantic Furniture

This four hundred foot long mill had a big part to play in the industrial revolution as home to the inventor James Brown

About this Property

Current Events

This red brick mill building with wonderful dentil cornice along its entire length has been in use as a furniture store and warehouse for as long as we can remember. Its stepped façade on the southern side is a 20th-century addition (we are pretty sure this is true but can find no source to cite).

While the building is being used, the masonry and windows could use some love. With such a mass of surface area it must be expensive to maintain the mortar, roof, and roof drainage. We hope the current owner continues to take care of it but quietly wonder if it will ever be renovated and turned into housing.


From the Church Hill Industrial District nomination form, 1982

The James Brown Machine Shop is a long, 2-story brick structure whose end face Main and Bayley Streets and whose long side runs along Pine Street. About 400’ X 60’, it has a slate, gabled roof, dentil cornice, and granite foundation. A basement runs half the length of the building. The windows have granite lintels and sills. Some of the original 12-over-12 sash has been replaced and other window openings have been boarded over. A short (only five bays long) ell extends from the east side. The south façade has been altered — a stepped gable has been added and new brick and stucco cover the surface — but on its other sides the structure is well preserved.


The earliest building still standing in the Church Hill District was built for James S. Brown. The son of Sylvanus Brown, one of Pawtucket’s noted machinists, James Brown was himself a skilled metal-worker — he had worked in the shops of Pitcher and Gay in the early 1820s and succeeded to partnership in the firm (afterward known as Pitcher and Brown) in 1824.

In 1842 he obtained full control of the company and determined to move the shops from a site near the Blackstone River to Church Hill. He began construction there of the long, 2-story, red brick mill standing at the corner of Main and Pine Streets. The building, carried on under the direction of master mason Israel Lee, was not completed until 1848. A small remnant of Brown’s earlier building near the site is the tiny, 1-story brick building east of the large mill [now extant]. It was later sold to William H. Haskell and incorporated into the Haskell complex which was built around it. Probably dating from the mid-1840s, the building may have housed Brown’s forge.

Even before the construction of the 1848 factory, James Brown had a substantial and well-deserved reputation as a machinist and inventor. In 1831 he invented a machine for cutting bevel gearing; in 1838 he patented a machine for boring the tubes of speeder flyers from solid iron; and in 1842, he patented a lathe for creating irregular metal forms. In the new shop on Church Hill, Brown built a variety of textile machinery, including mules and speeders, and cordage machinery; by the mid-nineteenth century, the factory employed three hundred hands.

Here Brown continued the stream of innovations and inventions for machinery — in 1852, he patented a rolling frame; in 1874 he invented a machine for grinding spindles; he was granted his last patent in 1876, only three years before his son James, Jr., succeeded to the business. The Brown Shop is today used for jewelry manufacture.

From the RIHPHC’s Statewide Historical Preservation Report of Pawtucket, P-PA-2, 1978

James S. Brown Machine Shop 1846-1848, 1930s; Captain Israel Lee, master mason. 2 1⁄2-story, gable-roofed, brick, machine shop with short projecting wing on east side. 400 feet long by 60 feet wide. Steam powered. Built for a skilled machinist and inventor, the son of Sylvanus Brown who had worked with Slater and Wilkinson, The machine shop’s primary products were spinning mules and, later, improved American speeders. Used as automobile showroom, early 20th century.

From “RHODE ISLAND: An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites”, Gary Kulik and Julia C. Bonham, 1978

JAMES S. BROWN MACHINE SHOP 1847-1848 — The first building in this complex, the foundry, was constructed in 1847 on property now owned by the Haskell Manufacturing Company. It has since been dismantled except for a small 1-story, pitched roof section. The 2-story, brick machine shop, with a pitched roof and a basement half its length, was built 400’ X 60’ in 1848. Its south façade has been sharply altered. A stepped gable has been added and much of the original brickwork has been covered over.

James S. Brown, the son of Sylvanus Brown-skilled millwright and patternmaker who worked for both Samuel Slater and David Wilkinson, was the original owner. A skilled machinist and inventor, James Brown invented a lathe slide rest in 1820 capable of adjusting the height of the cutting tool while the lathe was in motion. In 1832, he patented a machine for cutting bevel gearing; in 1838, a machine-for boring the tubes of speeder flyers; and in 1842, a lathe for irregular forms. The new machine shop saw the invention of a machine for grinding spindles 1874, a machine for drilling rollers for spinning frames 1875-1876, and an improvement in spinning mules 1876. By 1876 the shop was powered by a steam engine of 56-horsepower and employed 300 men. The building now houses a jewelry manufacturer. No historic machinery survives.


  • 1855 Henry F Walling, Map of the State of RI (Pawtucket inset) — The distinctive long “T” shape is visible on Pine Street in this map on the corner of Brown Street (later Pine) and Cross Street (later Main).
  • 1880 G.M. Hopkins, Atlas of the Town of Pawtucket, RI, Plate V — In the lower right, the building is labelled “Machine Shop” with “J. S. Brown” below that on the corner of Pine and Main Streets.
  • 1884 Sanborn Map, City of Pawtucket, Volume 1, Plate 6 (page 6) — Building labelled as “James S. Brown. Machine Shops” on the corner of Pine and Main Streets. Additional labels for “Storage Bas’t, Machine Shop 1st, Wood Shop 2nd.” A small office is located on the southeast corner of the building connected by a thin passageway.
  • 1902 Sanborn Map, City of Pawtucket, Volume 1, Plate 6 (page 10) — Building labelled as “James Brown. – Machine Shop” in red/pink as brick with notations of “2 1/2” stories. A blacksmith shop is on the northern side of the building with the bulk of the space labelled for “Machine shop.” Also noted is “Wood-Working, Erecting & Machine Shops 2nd, storage and lumber in attic”