Two Mills Then & Now

Welcome to Thursday Doors! This is a weekly challenge for people who love doors and architecture to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos, drawings, or other images or stories from around the world. If you’d like to join us, simply create your own Thursday Doors post each (or any) week and then share a link to your post in the comments below, anytime between 12:01 am Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time). If you like, you can add our badge to your post.

Before I get into a description of my doors, I want to highlight a few items coming up in the schedule.

  • Thursday April 28 – Last day to submit inspirational photos for the Thursday Doors Writing Challenge.
  • Sunday May 1 – Opening day of the Writing Challenge. As of this day, you will be able to link your posts, either via pingback or comment, to the Writing Challenge page.
  • Tuesday Mat 31 – The last day to link posts to the Writing Challenge page.
  • Thursday June 2 – There will be NO Thursday Doors this week.
  • Sunday June 5 – The Writing Challenge page will be updated to reflect all the entries. There will be no Weekly Recap since there won’t have been any doors.

One of the best things about living in an area where water-powered mills thrived during the 19th century is the survival of many of those mill buildings. Many have been preserved and many have found new life and new purpose in serving the community in which they stand. Communities that, in large part, were formed to supply the workforce for the mills.

Many of the mills in Manchester, Connecticut have been turned into housing. I will be sharing some of those buildings in coming weeks. Today, I’m featuring two mills which have found new life in more interesting ways. One building is a toy store and one serves/will serve a variety of businesses, including a brewery.

In 1887-1888, a factory building was constructed and occupied by the Mather Electric Company, a company producing dynamos (generators). Eventually, the company began to manufacture light bulbs. The company was sued by Edison General Electric Company for patent infringement and eventually Mather was forced out of business.

Other industrial tenants rented the building and, in 1903, it was purchased by the Bon Ami Company. Bon Ami had been renting space in the building since their first factory burned down in 1899. The company produced the popular Bon Ami Soap in the factory until 1959. Other industries occupied the building after that.  Since 1999, the Time Machine hobby shop has also been located in the building, making it the largest hobby retail location in New England.

Several small streams crisscrossed Manchester and at the confluence of Bigelow Brook and the Hockanum River is a former factory complex known as Hilliard Mills. Arron Buckland operated a woolen mill in this area as early as 1780. Blankets were produced for soldiers during the War of 1812.

The mill complex changed hands several times eventually being partially owned by Elisha Edgarton Hilliard, and Sydney Pitkin. They operated the mill for ten years and in 1842, Mr. Pitkin sold his share of the company to Mr. Hilliard. The company made blankets and clothing for the Union Army during the Civil War. A small manufacturing village called Hilliardville existed near the mill. The mills closed in 1940 and other manufacturers, including United Aircraft Corporation – now part of o United Technologies Corporation (UTC) during World War II. The surviving mill buildings are being redeveloped for business and commercial uses. You can learn more and see some interior photos here. One tenant is 2nd Bridge Brewing.

The gallery includes photos of two other buildings. They are unrelated to the featured buildings but they were in between them as I was driving.

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  1. Dan, I love old New England history. Old mills are my favorite. We had on in the small town in Maine. My Dad worked there in the 1930s-1940s. As kids we tried to walk on the logs in the river. Not the smartest thing to do. And we did almost fall in many times. 📚🎶Christine

    Liked by 2 people

    • My goodness, Christine. That’s not something I would have expected. I imagine the temptation was hard to resist. I’m glad you didn’t get hurt, I hope the mill buildings that have found new life can survive into the next century. There are several others that are still looking for tenants, and some that might be too small to be of use. I hope they can be preserved as well. Thanks for visiting today.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dan, we were adventurous kids. I’m surprised we (cousins & friends) survived some adventures. Our parents let the 3 German Shepherds in our families take care of us. And they really did. Very protective—watchful every minute. The mill in my old home town was more open and not converted. 📚🎶

        Liked by 1 person

    • It was an eerie day. The rain also made the brick buildings much darker, and limited the angles of the pictures I could get. I am so glad that so many of these buildings have been preserved.

      I liked learning a little about Bhutan. I think I will look into it more.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You might appreciate the interior photos on the complex’s webpage (link is in the post). I would imagine such a space would be a challenge to use for business, but designers always seem to find a way to make it work. I can imagine the brewery fitting in very well.

      Thanks for sharing your own door for this challenge. It’s beautiful.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. These old mills are fabulous buildings. It’s so good to see them being repurposed. They have a lot of life left in them! I especially like the idea of the Time Machine Hobby Shop and the name alone speaks of its history. I like the buildings now selling farm supplies. If these buildings didn’t do anything else, they certainly kept window washers employed!

    Once again you have provided some interesting history. The original mills were part of the backbone of this country. Long may they continue to serve their community.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so glad you like these mills, Ginger. I think they are important, and I think they are worth preserving. Hopefully, some of the people living in these buildings learn about, and I hope they share that history with others. These buildings played such an important role in the history of this country. New England was an industrial powerhouse, and these were the places where the magic happened.


    • Thanks! I love knowing the history of these mills. I can’t always find much, but the fact that they were the life force of this town for so many years is impossible to escape. I am also glad that they have been preserved and that they have found new purposes in the community.

      You shared a structure that I know well, but have never seen as close as you.


  3. Maybe it’s the grey skies, but these buildings all seem to have a grim aspect to them. But then I think of the brewery and toy shop, and it’s obvious there’s a good heart beating in them, maybe even a happy heart. That they have renewed life and purpose honors the people who worked there and what must have been their sturdy spirit. “The Time Machine” is an inspired name!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s true, Pam. We need to remember our roots. In this case, the vision some people had and the livelihood the provided. In the next weeks or so, I will focus on the major player in this mill city. Lots of interesting stories.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The Bon Ami building looks almost like a church, doesn’t it? All the windows at the Hilliard Mill building! Imagine the poor guy who was tasked with cleaning them–if they even cleaned them at all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • When those buildings were built, that would have been the only source of useful light. Cleaning them? Glad it wasn’t my job. The Bon Ami building did make think it was a church the first time I visited The Time Machine. It does have that look.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You had a murky day but you made what you could out of it. I like the first door and the striking white windows and doors of the last building.

    In my post, doors near my parents’ home in Ljubljana, and I ask myself why I take door photos differently in Slovenia and in Italy. There is also the invitation to see your writing challenge doors and contribute (a reminder to you to include my door in your gallery as you said.) And there is a poem with some African soundtrack.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Toy and Hobby Store looks like it would be a nearly all day shopping experience for some of us. lol Great old brick buildings and doors alike! And if I lost my sense of sight, I’d know exactly where I was at in a feed store. Just sayin. haha

    Liked by 1 person

  7. […] Welcome to Thursday Doors, a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments below, anytime between 12:01 am Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time). You can join in Thursday Doors here: […]


    • Thanks Natalie. The rainy day made the bricks darker and the contrast between the white windows higher. Now let’s talk about your doors.

      You delivered every favorite door I can think of, today! I love your post. If anyone is reading these comments, go check out Natalie’s doors.


  8. There’s something bittersweet about these mills. I know they were useful, but I think of the people who worked in them and feel a bit sad about their lives. Your photos are evocative.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll share some houses that will illustrate the difference between the way the mill owners lived compared to the mill workers. Still, those people came here looking for jobs, and some were very good jobs. But you’re right, not all of them were.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know much about the working conditions, but these mills operated in the time when labor was cheap and lives were expendable.

      I am enjoying the pictures from your Paris trip.


  9. I love the Bon Ami factory building! The door with the curved panes of glass to complement the windows is unique and beautiful. Hubby and I spent the day in Peterborough, NH. You would be in Seventh Heaven. The oldest of the magnificent buildings were placed perfectly for a birds-eye view of Mount Monadnock, and of Pack Monadnock in the opposite direction. I learned today that ‘pack’ is the Native American word for ‘little’. We saw waterfalls and mills, turkeys and blue herons, and stone bridges.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I had no idea either until yesterday. You will love this town! If you plan to go, I can give you information on hiking and the historic properties. When you drive by, no one is there. You’re in the country, alone, looking at heaven on earth.

        Liked by 1 person

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