Waterman Weybosset Mills

also known as Eagle Steam Mill, American Woolen Company, Providence Wool Combing

A large complex of mill buildings spread out over three city blocks is only partially intact and undergoing revitalization in different forms

About this Property

Redevelopment

This large complex is comprised of seven distinct buildings and a few more addresses. The complex lost some of its original structures during a demolition between 1988 and 1997. A circa 1836 Boiler House remains and is known as the home of Wes’s Rib House. Remaining structures date from as early as 1866 and as late as 1937.

There is much history in these buildings. Most have been used for industrial and manufacturing purposes since their construction, from cotton production to worsted wool, and from a brewery to a paper cup manufacturer. With recent changes in ownership we are hoping to see small businesses and artistic endeavors thrive in these spaces.

Of note, Hungry Ghost Press (on Instagram) looks to be holding a fundraiser to renovate and repair portions of 239 Oak Street, former Mill Number 2 built circa 1866.

Current Events

38 Dike Street is still in use as a restaurant. 34 Dike Street looks to be residential. 46 Dike Street is now the Dye House. 239 Oak Street is undergoing environmental remediation and is being slowly redeveloped as studio space. 217 Oak Street is under private ownership. 222 Oak, 52 Troy, and 1 Magnolia Street is under private ownership, as is 244 Oak Street.

History

Maps

Maps shown in our gallery concentrate on the central complex bounded by Dike Street to the north, Troy Street to the west, and Oak Street to the south.

  • 1889 Sanborn Insurance Map, Volume 1, Plate 27a (page 55) — Labelled as the Weybosset Woolen Mills. Starting on the northern edge along Dike Street, there is a 1-story office building located near where a newer, 2 story office was later built. On the western side of the block, a shorter brick building exists which was later expanded to become the dyeing house at 46 Dike Street. The center, blue (indicating concrete or stone construction), 4-story “F”-shaped mill (rotated 90°) consists of Mill Number 1 along the northern side, a “wing” on the eastern side, and an “L” building protruding from the center of Mill Number 1. Four smokestacks are located in the Boiler House building to the west of Mill Number 1 and north of Mill Number 2. There is an open section in the blue “F” shape with a small stone building and 1-story red brick addition. Mill Number 2 is on the southwestern corner of the block at Oak and Troy. Elevated walkways exist connecting to a store house across Oak Street and then connecting again to Mill Number 3 (see next map) across Troy.
  • 1900 Sanborn Insurance Map, Volume 3, Plate 264 (page 54) — Labelled as the American Woolen Company Weybosset Plant. The previously open “F” shape mill has been infilled with the 1-story Weaving Room. The dyeing house is still shorter than it is presently and the smokestack configuration has changed. Detail of Mill Number 3 is present and what will become Mill Number 4 is only a one-story “Cotton and Wool Storage” building.
  • 1920 Sanborn Insurance Map, Volume 4, Plate 14 (page 15) — The dye house building has increased in size and the 1-story office on the north of the block has had a 2-story office built to the east. Mill Number 4 has been added on the block south on Oak Street and remains connected to Mills Number 2 to the north and 4 to the west. Elevated walkways also exist between the new Mill Number 4 and the “L” portion of Mill Number 1.
  • 1951 Sanborn Insurance Map, Volume 4, Plate 14 (page 15) — Maps in between did not note any major changes. This map looks very much like the earlier maps except for a few notes: the elevated walkways have been removed and the presence of clerestories has been noted in the drawings.
  • 1972, Providence Historical Aerial Viewer — The complex looks much the same as it does in the 1956 map. Much of the block is infilled by buildings. The signature sawtooth roof of the Weaving Room is visible.
  • 1997, Providence Historical Aerial Viewer — Demolition has occurred on the northern and eastern sides of the complex, losing the Number 1 Main Mill and the Number 1 Wing. The “L” building in between the Number 2 Mill and the Weaving Room has been removed, creating an exposed alley between buildings down the center of the complex. This demolition occurred somewhere between the 1988 aerial and this 1997 photo.
  • 2008, Providence Historical Aerial Viewer — Between a 2011 and a 2014 photo, a new building was added in the center of the complex, to the north of 239 Oak Street and to the west of the former Weave Shed at 217 Oak Street. The configuration since this photo has not changed significantly.

From the National Register Form for the Weybosset Mills complex, 2008, by Jenny R. Fields and Alyssa L. Wood, PAL

The entire report can be found from the National Parks Service website. This main entry for the mill complex focuses on the block bounded by Dike Street to the north, Troy to the west, and Oak Street to the south. The block bounded by Oak to the north, Agnes to the west, Magnolia to the south, and Troy to the east is Mill Number 3, aka the Roger Williams Brewing Company. The block bounded by Oak to the north, Troy to the west, and Magnolia to the south is Mill Number 4.

Significance

The Weybosset Mills Complex is significant because it illustrates several important themes in the establishment and development of Rhode Island’s worsted woolen industry. The complex possesses additional significance for its ability to illustrate some distinctive characteristics of mid-nineteenth to early twentieth-century textile mill architecture.

The Weybosset Mills possess important historical associations with the establishment of Rhode Island’s worsted wool industry during the Civil War and the growth of the industry into the early twentieth century. After purchasing a cotton- manufacturing complex (dating from the 1830s) in 1864, the Weybosset Corporation transformed it to accommodate wool manufacturing, establishing itself as one of the earliest large wool manufacturers in Rhode Island. The complex is also representative of the consolidation of New England textile mills that occurred in the 1890s, as the American Woolen Company bought and merged the Weybosset Corporation in 1899 into a larger corporation.

[…] At the time of its construction, the complex represented a state-of- the-art woolen processing facility that incorporated both a traditional vertical “industrial loft,” which was developed in the nineteenth century to satisfy the needs for interior lighting and power transmission via line shafting, and horizontal one-story “production shed” buildings that could accommodate increasingly heavy weaving machinery. The accretive quality of the complex, with buildings constructed adjacent to, and in between, existing buildings is characteristic of woolen and finishing plants. The existing buildings retain substantial integrity.

Mill No. 1 Boiler House (ca 1836)

The Mill No. 1 Boiler House is located near the southwest corner of the northeast block, immediately north of Mill No. 2. The Boiler House is a three-story, approximately 11-bay-by-3-bay rectangular building with a slightly pitched flat built-up roof and brick walls. Two-thirds of the brick wall on the north elevation is covered over with cement parging.

The fenestration includes tall, rectangular openings with flat brick lintels and sills on the upper stories and segmental arch openings with brick lintels and granite sills on the ground floor. Most of the window openings have concrete block or plywood infill and some have smaller replacement windows. The fenestration pattern on the north elevation is interrupted by the addition of faux windows and the covering of original window openings with cement parging.

[…] The east elevation of the building was formerly connected to a north-south oriented two-story building that was attached to Mill No. 1 and the east ell of Mill No. 1. These buildings have been demolished and the wall of the boiler house covered with concrete block. A modern one-story concrete block addition at the second story, supported by concrete block and steel piers wraps around the south half of the east elevation and the east half of the south elevation. On the west half of the south elevation, steel I-beams extend to the north elevation of Mill No.2 at the second story. These beams once supported pipe hangers.

The north elevation is covered in a myriad of faux architectural details that override the original aesthetics of the building. A historical drawing of the building shows two dormers on the east end of the roof that are no longer extant. The building housed four Corliss boilers and was used to store dye, until two more boilers were added by 1921. By 1956, the building was used for storage again.

Though much changed, the Mill No. 1 Boiler House still makes an active contribution to the complex — it is the earliest building in the complex and documents the presence here of a major cotton mill which predates the existing woolen/worsted mill. The association with John Waterman’s Eagle Steam Mill and its early date make this a rare survivor.

Mill No. 2 (1866)

Mill No. 2 is located directly south of the Mill No. 1 Boiler House on the northeast corner of Oak and Troy streets. The northwest corner of the mill is connected to the south elevation of the Dye House. Mill No. 2 is a three-story, 12-bay-by-4-bay rectangular building with an exterior stair tower. It has a slightly pitched flat built-up roof and brick walls. The segmental arch window openings have brick lintels, granite sills; most windows contain modern double-hung sash. Almost all are now covered with plywood. The window openings in the stairtower have been filled with cement block.

Doors on the first story include a metal personnel door on the south end of the west facade, altered from a window opening; a metal personnel door in the second bay from the west on the south elevation with a narrow metal roll door next to it; and a metal garage door in the second bay from the east on the south elevation. Original double wood doors with diagonal wood plank on the bottom half, are located in a segmental arch opening in the second bay from the west at the second story of the south elevation. The door previously opened to an overhead passageway to the third floor of the storage house attached to Mill No. 4. A long wood lintel was added under the segmental arch for additional support.

The flat-roofed, one-by-one-bay stair tower is located on the east elevation of the building and extends approximately one and one-half feet higher. A two-and-one-half story brick addition is attached to the north elevation of the tower. A small square, one-story wood-shingled shed abuts the south elevation of the tower and the east elevation of Mill No. 2. In 1900, Mill No. 2 contained scouring and drying processes on the first floor, wool sorting on the second, and picking on the third. Its use varied slightly, including drying, picking, and winding by 1921.

Dye House (ca 1880, ca 1900)

See independent entry

Weaving Room (ca 1890)

The Weaving Room is located east of Mill No. 2 on Oak Street and was originally attached to Mill No. 1 on three sides. The Weaving Room is a one-story, wide rectangular building with a saw-tooth weave shed roof and concrete block and brick walls. The roof includes five 30-60-90 degree saw-tooth monitors covered with asphalt shingle. The sides of the monitors are clad in painted, vertical wood siding. The south elevation, which was originally the only exposed side of the building, contains the only fenestration and access. Four bays of glass block with modem double-hung windows comprise the west half of the south elevation. One additional glass block bay and two small square windows, one of which is covered with plywood, are located in the east half of the south elevation. A high, paneled metal garage roll door with its own asphalt shed roof extending from the weave shed roof defines the center of the building. A ruined section of the brick, south wall of the Mill No. 1 East Ell is still attached to the north elevation of the Weaving Room. Vegetation and a chain-link fence restrict access to the north and east sides of the building.

Historical maps indicate that the interior of the building is supported by wood posts. The building was built as a weaving room and converted to a dressing room in the early twentieth century. It was used for eyeglasses, pen, and pencil manufacturing between 1931 and 1970.

Office (ca 1910)

The Office is centrally located on Dike Street between Troy Street and Route 6-10, and is the northernmost building in the Weybosset Mills. The Office is a two-story rectangular, six-by-three-bay brick building with a one-story modern brick and concrete block addition wrapping around the east and south elevations. The building has a flat, built-up roof with three rows of corbelled brickwork defining the cornice line. The brick walls are recessed behind the cornice and corner pilasters. The window openings are tall and narrow, with granite lintels and sills. The second and sixth bays from the east on the north elevation are paired. Most of the windows have been replaced with modern, one-over-one, double-hung metal sash, or filled in with brick or plywood. The first floor of the north elevation contains six-over-six double-hung windows in the bottom half of bricked up window openings. Interior louvered wood shutters cover these windows. The central bay of the east elevation contains one original double-hung window.

Modern metal personnel doors located in the south bay of the west elevation and the east bay of the north elevation were installed in former window openings. The main entrance to the Office is located in the west bay of the north elevation. A modern personnel door is set within an original paneled wood door surround with a single-pane transom window. The north bay of the west elevation appears to have been a second doorway and is now bricked up. A modern door to a fire escape with a metal railing is located in the central bay of the east elevation. An original metal fire door that connected to an overhead bridge to Mill No. 1 is located in the central bay of the second-story on the south (rear) elevation. The location of this bridge is visible on the surrounding brick.

A one-story modern brick addition extends from the south end of the east elevation to the east half of the south elevation. It contains a personnel door on the north elevation and two wide horizontal window openings, one of which is bricked up. This addition abuts a concrete block party wall and one-story concrete block shed, with a metal personnel door on the west elevation.

The current Office appears on historic maps between 1900 and 1921. During this time period, an earlier one-story brick office building was demolished. The prior office was located slightly west of the extant Office, which was designed as the central entrance to the mill complex, aligned in front of the Mill No. 1 tower. By 1956, the office was converted to industrial workspace.

[A 1908 Map shows this office in place, therefore we place the build date closer to 1905.]

Mill No. 3 (ca 1880)

See independent entry for the Roger Williams Brewing Company.

Mill No. 4 with attached Storage Building and Boiler Room (ca 1900, ca 1885, ca 1937)

See independent entry for Mill Number 4


Additional History

From the “Industrial Sites and Commercial Buildings Survey (ICBS)” by PPS and the AIA, 2001-2002

Waterman-Weybosset Mills — 20, 34, 46 Dike Street; 217, 233, 239 Oak Street 1836-1881

34 Dike Street is a two-story, flat-roof, brick, rectangular building with decorative brick corbelling at the cornice line. Two pedestrian entrances are located on the building’s fa9ade, both with replacement doors. Fenestration consists of rectangular window openings with replacement 1/1 sash and splayed stone lintels and sills. A one-story, flat-roof, brick and concrete block ell projects from the building’s southeast elevation.

46 Dike Street is a one-story, long, rectangular, 2-by-16-bay, brick building set at the northeast comer of Troy and Dike streets. The building has an end-gambrel roof with shed-roof dormers extending along both the east and west roof slopes. An offset vehicular entrance with roll top door is located on the north elevation of the structure; a second vehicular entrance is located on the west elevation. A pedestrian entrance with replacement door is located in the north bay of the east elevation; a second pedestrian entrance is set within a segmental-arch opening in the south bay of the west elevation. Fenestration consists of regularly-spaced, segmental-arch openings with fixed multi-light sash and stone sills. A brick chimney projects from the ridge. A small paved lot is located to the east.

Attached to the rear (south) of 46 Dike Street stands 239 Oak Street (1870s), a three-story, end- gable, rectangular, brick building with an offset pedestrian entrance on its fm;ade. Fenestration consists of segmental-arch window openings filled in with wood panels and replacement 1/1 sash. Several window openings have been completely bricked in. The building is identified as Mill No. 2 on historic maps. Attached to the north side of the building stands 233 Oak Street, a three-story, brick, flat-roof, rectangular structure with a two-story ell on its east end. 20 Dike Street is a one-story, rectangular, brick building set on the north side of Oak Street. The building is notable for its sawtooth monitor roof. A vehicular entrance is located on the fa9ade and most window openings are filled in with glass block. Historic maps show a four-story, L-shaped, stone structure identified as a paper box manufacturing that stood to the east.

[…] This site was originally used for John Waterman’s Eagle Steam Mill for the manufacture of cotton. The two buildings that comprised this complex are located on Dike Street and on either side of Troy Street. The main structure on Dike Street is a three-and-one-half-story, stuccoed, stone, Greek Revival-style building with a central tower. After 1855 the mill on Troy Street was operated under separate ownership; it has been renovated beyond recognition.


From the RIHPHC survey of Providence Industrial Sites, July 1981

84 Dike Street — Waterman-Weybosset Mills (1836 and later): John Waterman’s Eagle Steam Mill, a cotton mill, was located in two mills on Dike Street on either side of Troy Street. After 1855, however, the mill on the western side of Troy Street (now altered beyond recognition) was operated under separate ownership. John Waterman, who earlier in the century had built the Merino Mills, was one of the earliest Providence cotton-cloth manufacturers to use a steam engine as the sole source of power. In the 1850s Waterman sold the mill to R. and J. Peckham who operated the cotton mill until the outbreak of the Civil War, which constricted the supply of raw cotton. In 1866, Royal C. Taft (later Governor of Rhode Island) and William Weeden bought the abandoned mill and incorporated as the Weybosset Mills. Taft and Weeden, who had both been active in the woolen industry, sold all of the cotton machinery and converted the Waterman Mill into a woolen mill. The Weybossett Mills soon became well known for its fine cassimeres woven from original designs.

The Weybossett Mills were responsible for all of the 19th century additions to the original 3 1/2-story, stuccoed, stone, Greek Revival mill with a central tower (obscured by a later brick structure). Early 1870s structures include a small brick mill (mill number two [The Dye House]) on the northeast corner of Troy and Oak Streets, a large stone ell on the eastern side of the earlier structure, and a small addition to the rear extension of the mill. These structures were used for scouring, picking, and dyeing the wool. The 4-story, stone mill (mill number three) with a projecting central tower, corner quoins, and multi-paned sash windows also dates from this period. This mill was used for auxiliary carding and spinning. Later buildings are a c. 1890 addition to the office and an early 20th-century storehouse on the southeastern corner of Oak and Troy Streets. By the early 1880s with the increasing popularity of worsted goods, the Weybossett Mills sold its carding machinery and installed combing, drawing, and spinning machinery for worsted production. 1n 1885 Royal C. Taft sold his shares in the Weybossett Mills, and in 1899 William Weeden sold out to the American Woolen Company. Under the ownership of the American Woolen Company the Weybosset Mill produced cloth for overcoats and cloaks. The fourth mill, on the southeast corner of Troy and Oak Streets, was built between 1908 and 1918 and was used for storage. In 1928 the American Woolen Company made plans to abandon the Weybosset Mill and finally sold it to a realty company in 1932. The Weybosset Mill has since been occupied by several small manufacturing companies.


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

Built by John Waterman in 1836, the Weybosset Mill first produced cotton cloth. 1866 brought a change of owner ship, the introduction of cassimere manufacture, and the construction of a second mill for scouring, picking, and dyeing. A third mill, completed in 1881, housed carding and spinning machinery. The American Woolen Company, which bought the complex in 1899, produced worsteds, cassimeres, overcoatings, cloakings, and fancy colored fabrics. At-that time, the Weybosset Mills made from 1,100,000 to 1,500,000 yards of fabric per year. Today the large central tower of the 1836 4-story, stuccoed- stone mill, .280’ X50’, is obscured by a small brick building built directly in front of it. Two large 1872 4-story, stuccoed-stone ells, 157’ X 51’ and 107’ X 49’, protrude at the rear of the- main mill. The 1866, 3-story brick mill and a later 1-story weave shed with saw-tooth roof, are located behind the main mill. The third mill, a 4-story, stone structure, 168’ X 59’, is located on Oak And Dike Streets. It has been greatly altered with only the first floor showing sections of the original stone construction. No old machinery remains.

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