Microfibres, Inc.

also known as Weil Barnefield Corpin, Woodlawn Finishing Co.

A complex of one- and two-story buildings used for upholstery fabric distribution and manufacture for over 90 years

About this Property

#Last Tenant

Microfibres occupied a 10.2 acre complex that had built up between about 1940 and 1960. Two of the oldest buildings on the property likely predate our 1923 Sanborn Map by 20 years. 275,000 of floor space is contained in four inter-connected buildings. The complex is bounded by Main Street to the east, Moshassuck Street to the north, a baseball field to the west, and Greenville Street to the south. As city blocks go, this is a large one.

The area is surrounded by additional mills and industrial/commercial land, not far from the Ocean State Job Lot shopping center that once housed a Drive-In Theater and the Providence Cyclodrome before that. Residential conversion might have been on the table for these buildings, but it was a far stretch due to the likelihood of industrial contaminants, including dust, gases, and bio-aerosols that contributed to employees contracting “unspecific interstitial pneumonia” (See News).

Sadly, it looks as though a portion, if not the entire block, will be razed for a new warehouse distribution center.

Architecture

The buildings are all slightly different, having been constructed at different times. They range from two-story red brick mills with arched window transoms and stone lintels, with slightly pitched roofs, to brick-fronted cinder-block structures with flat roofs and rectangular window openings to a steel-clad warehouse, steel-clad barn, and wood frame out buildings. The circa 1900 buildings on the far western and eastern sides of the plot are the nicest buildings, though simple in presentation with no excess ornamentation.

The whole lot slopes down from Main Street towards the river and Interstate 95. Some lower buildings on the southern side appear to be built into this slope.

#Current Events

The large industrial complex that previously housed Microfibres Inc. on Moshassuck Street has been sold to HP Fabrics Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Turkish textile company Tukek. [The sale] went through April 11 [2017].1

A portion of the old Microfibres Inc. property at 1 Moshassuck St. is proposed to be converted into a new 165,000-square-foot distribution and warehouse center called the Blackstone Distribution Center.2

According to the article, 37 dock doors, 28 trailer stalls, and 100 auto stalls will be available for lease. Pawtucket officials had received conceptual plans, but the approval process through both the planning and zoning departments was starting to move along back in 2020.

#History

No formal written history about this complex of buildings from the usual places. We made our own history based on aerial photographs and Sanborn maps.

1923, Sanborn Map
Two buildings appear in the 1923 Sanborn Map3, the earliest record we have been able to find so far.
  • Weil Barnefield Corpin, Mfg. Silk & Cotton Novelties on the northeast corner of Main Street and Moshassuck. A 2-story brick building used for winding and weaving. A smaller wood frame storage building was set to the west. This building also featured a sawtooth roof.
  • Woodlawn Finishing Co., Finishing Yarn on the northwest corner of Moshassuck and Esten Ave. A one and two story brick mill consisting of four buildings; Dye House, Bleach House, Finishing & Winding, and Shipping Winding and Quilling.
1939, aerial photo
It looks like a few more houses were constructed on the lots along Greenville Street and a building to the north of those houses along Main Street.
1951-1952, aerial photo (not shown)
A small outbuilding surrounds the western and southern sides of the Weil Barnefield Corpin building. It is narrow on the west side and deeper on the southern side, we are guessing one story. What looks to be eight skylights punctuate the new structure. The low building in between the row of houses and this building from the 1939 is now gone. A construction date of 1940 shown on the commercial sales listing might be referencing this configuration of buildings.
1962, aerial photo
A significant expansion of the complex has taken place. Our guess is that Microfibres occupies the buildings along Main Street on the eastern side of the property and have expanded westward towards the Woodlawn Finishing Co. buildings. The houses on the southern edge are gone, and floor space has doubled if not tripled with the new structure in the middle of this plot and along the southern edge. A small parking area is along this southern side, behind the mid-century plate glass ten brick building on the southeast corner of Greenville and Main. The western portion of Esten Street that ran through this property seems to begin to be abandoned at this time.
1972, aerial photo (not shown)
It is hard to decipher because the aerial photo displays a seam here, but the central area that once separated the two buildings on the western and eastern edges has now been filled in with the steel-clad warehouse structure. The Woodlawn Finishing Co. now appears to be part of the complex. A parking lot to its left (west) now occupies the former portion of Esten Street that used to run through to Greenville St.
1981, aerial photo
A better view of the state shown in the previous 1972 photo with much unchanged. The southwestern portion shows the barn-like structures present today.
1997, aerial photo
Not much changed aside from new roofs. It looks like a parking area on the southern side is filled with a building by 2008, but we can confirm that this is just the resurfacing of an existing parking lot.
2008, aerial photo
Building configuration is now the same as present day.

#In the News

Pawtucket manufacturer to file bankruptcy, closes shop after 90 years in business

by Patricia Resende NBC/WJAR Channel 10 | January 28, 2016

After more 90 years in business, Microfibres Inc. in Pawtucket is closing doors its doors in the United States and possibly in other nations, NBC 10 News has learned.

The manufacturer and distributor of upholstery fabrics, located at One Moshassuck Street, held a Union meeting on Wednesday to discuss plans to shutter the business by the end of the week.

Union officials at the meeting told NBC 10 that the company is closing its Pawtucket, Rhode Island facility, which employees 57 people and its North Carolina facility, which has roughly 125 employees.

“We had a meeting today and were told they are filing for bankruptcy,” said Ethan Snow, chief of staff of the New England Joint Board of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees (UNITE), a federation of local and New England chapters.

There have been recent layoffs at the company’s Pawtucket facility, some of which have worked for the company for more than 30 years, NBC 10 has learned.

Luis Algarin, president of Union Local 1832T, the local (UNITE) in Pawtucket, has worked at Microfibres for 17 years. Algarin told NBC 10 that he was told during Wednesday’s meeting that the company is closing the business completely. It was not clear whether its facilities in China and Belgium are closing.

“They are so sad because they’ve spent half their lives here,” Algarin said. “Some people have worked here for 35 years and they have families, mortgages and kids in college.”

Since last spring, the company had been laying most employees off for one week at a time and then calling them back for the next week, sources told NBC 10. Employees have been collecting unemployment insurance during those frequent weekly layoffs.

Employees who have not yet been laid off reported to work on Wednesday. Currently, Union employees work either the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift or the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift.

“They have been playing this game for at least 10 years now saying the economy is bad,” Algarin said. “They have no more money to pay the bills.”

Snow agreed saying it’s been no secret that the company has been struggling for some time now.

The company, however, has been cooperative, according to Snow, who filed for trade adjustment assistance with the Department of Labor and Training, which will help employees with added training, an extension on unemployment and other benefits.

NBC 10 attempted to reach the company, but calls were not immediately returned.

Microfibres, which makes nylon-velvet products including fiber-dyed, printed and embossed fabrics, has had its share of issues over the years including employees being sickened by air contaminents.[sic] And then Microfibres CEO James McCulloch duked it out in divorce court for five years over Microfibres shares, according to court documents. Financial experts who were brought in during the proceedings said the company was worth between $106 and $126 million.

The company is also the same textile factory where a new occupational disease was detected by a Brown University researcher after several workers had respiratory issues. The disease, “unspecific interstitial pneumonia” was found in nine of the company’s then [sic] 170 employees. And seven other cases were identified at Microfibre’s plant in Kingston, Ontario.

It all began in February 1996 when the Respiratory Diseases Research Program at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) was asked by the company to investigate what it thought was two cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), a type of lung disease, in two employees. The company made the request after Dr. David Kern, an occupational medicine physician at Brown University, found the two cases in young employees, and made the connection between the disease and air contaminants at the plant, but could not find the cause.

After inspecting the plant, NIOSH tested the air samplings to find any exposures to dust, bioaerosols and gases. According to NIOSH documents, Microfibres had no prior awareness of the presence of the specific dust at the plant. Recommendations were made by NIOSH for Microfibres management to take action by installing engineering controls, to enforce good work practices, to use proper respiratory protection, and establish a medical screening/surveillance program. Microfibres made “substantial progress” in complying with the recommendations, according to NIOSH.

Captured May 8, 2022 from https://turnto10.com/news/local/pawtucket-manufacturer-to-file-bankruptcy-closes-shop-after-90-years-in-business

  1. “Microfibres property sold; new manufacturing jobs possible,” Ethan Shorey, The Valley Breeze, May 2, 2017. Captured May 9, 2022 from https://www.valleybreeze.com/2020-11-25/pawtucket/blackstone-distribution-center-planned-old-microfibres-property/ 

  2. “Blackstone Distribution Center planned at old Microfibres property,” Ethan Shorey, The Valley Breeze, November 25, 2020. Captured May 9, 2022 from https://www.valleybreeze.com/2020-11-25/pawtucket/blackstone-distribution-center-planned-old-microfibres-property/ 

  3. Sanborn Map Company, “Insurance maps of Pawtucket: including Central Falls, Rhode Island V. 2a” (1923). Sanborn Maps for the State of Rhode Island. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:212358/