Cheney Brothers Silk Mill – 1

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).

I decided to start sharing the Cheney Mill buildings with some of the most interesting ones I found. I wish I had been there on a sunny day, when I could have gotten out to explore, but nature decided we needed rain. I was able to find some historic information, from the National Register of Historic Places and from a website called Historic Places Connecticut and from the Manchester Historic Society. I’m not going to try to paraphrase them. I am starting with the Ribbon Mill. The Historic Society is located in the old machine shop (which is mentioned below).

East of the Machine Shop, across Pine Street, are two rectangular-shaped, east-west oriented, three-story Ribbon Mills (162 Pine Street) that are linked by a smaller building of similar construction. A partially raised basement gives the two main structures a 3 1/2-story appearance. Twenty-over twenty sashes light the interior work areas, while brick buttresses help support the exterior walls. These edifices still serve the textile industry but not in their original capacity.

Manchester Historic Society

The Ribbon Mill was built in two phases in 1907-1909. A turbine engine was installed in the Engine Room to provide power to the Ribbon Mill. It was the first turbine engine in Manchester. The building has 100,000 square feet. Beginning in 1936, Manchester Modes, a local firm that made ladies’ fashions, rented and later bought this mill. The Ellis family-owned Manchester Modes as well as textile operations in New Britain. Today it serves as apartments.

Manchester Historic Society

Spinning Mills (63 Elm Street). Erected in 1886 at the southeast corner of Forest and Elm Streets, this complex, consists chiefly of three three-story, rectangular-shaped, east-west oriented, approximately 300-foot-long mills and one similarly constructed operatives*cafeteria. The west-facing group features low-pitched gable roofs and rectangular six-over-six sashes set in segmentally arched openings, and it is distinguished particularly by a five-story clock tower projecting from a three-story pavilion at the center of the front facade. Highlighting the tower are brick quoins, belting, and corbeling plus round arched front windows and occasional keystones. Apparently sometime after initial construction the spaces separating the four main edifices were partially enclosed to create additional work areas.

Other Mill Buildings. Across Forest Street north of the Spinning Mills are three west-facing Weaving Mills (91 Elm Street) that are almost identical to the Velvet Mills in design and age. Apparently, the Weaving Mills are used now primarily as warehouses. East of them, across Elm Street, are a rectangular-shaped, two-story, early 20th-century Machine Shop (175 Pine Street and 199 Forest Street) and an adjacent irregular-shaped two-story support building (96 Elm Street). Neither structure serves its original function, but both are in fair condition.

North of these are two unique early 20th-century buildings that were essential to the Cheneys’ receipt of raw silk shipments by rail. One is an east-facing, three-story, shed-roofed, windowless Silk Storage Vault (110 Elm Street). Across its front (east) facade are seven irregular bays, each containing a heavy steel door. Raw silk was taken off incoming rail cars and kept here until it was needed in the mills. The second, and northernmost, structure is a one-story oblong Rail Car Vault (2 Elm Terrace). Plain except for a corbeled cornice, this one story red brick edifice rests on a concrete and stone foundation, is windowless, and has only one entrance, a large steel double door on the south end. Rail cars carrying silk were kept here until their contents could be removed to the Silk Storage Vault.

The Second Annual Thursday Doors Writing Challenge begins on Sunday. In addition to the weekly recap, Sunday’s post will include a refresher course on the rules of participation – it’s really not that hard, pick a door, write something.

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127 comments

  1. For some strange reason, Dan, I had a completely different idea of what a mill should look like in my head. I think it’s because many of the very old mills were part of water mills but, of course, that would have been earlier. I enjoyed this history and your pictures.

    Like

    • Most of those bricks were made in the neighboring town of Windsor, Connecticut. Bricks and brownstone were 19th century products made in this area. I do like the look, and they have survived.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Although I agree the workshop entrance to the Ribbon Mill, at the top, is an impressive one, it’s the windows that amaze me. For all I know, a lot of draft, but also wonderful light. It would appear a lot of people made a living here. Great old buildings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have to agree, Maureen. 20 over 20, 24 over 24, arched tops. I love those windows! Back then, everyone worked in natural light. When I look at the windowless slabs of concrete they connect and call a building today, I am sad.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love these buildings, then and now. So glad they are still serving their community today. Originally they provided employment and now housing. How great is that? I love the windows in the Ribbon Mill!

    When I look at the sketches of the 1-bedroom/2-bedroom apartments, they appear quite roomy….even noting the measurements. But looking at the same sketches with furniture added, they don’t look so roomy! Still, I would be happy living there.

    Glad these beauties got a second chance to show their stuff. Hats off to those who made it happen.
    Ginger

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree about the floor plans, Ginger. It does make a difference when you see them furnished. Add in the half-dozen book cases I would add, and things would be getting cramped (like they are in our house).

      I would imagine that in 1966, there were developers chomping at the bit to tear these buildings down, dump the bricks in a landfill and build “modern” apartments. I’m glad some of the buildings were still being used for industry, and that someone had the vision to preserve the entire district. Otherwise, I’m sure there would only be a few remnants of this wonderful history.

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    • It’s my pleasure. I love seeing doors (like the ones you shared today) from other places. Places I will not likely get to visit. I hope you have a great weekend.

      Like

  4. Thanks for showing the apartment layouts. The one with the den with the 3 tiny cubbies is particularly interesting. I’m glad they haven’t been torn down and have found new uses. We forget that rail lines went right into factories and mills in many places.

    I’ve got some more brownstones this week that used to be entire block. Once again, at least a few were saved.(K)

    Wherefore art thou Romeo? (Thursday Doors)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Originally built near the river, for both power and transportation, these mills flourished after the railroads came to town. I was so happy to see enough of the history remaining to be able to visualize the story.

      Likewise, I am glad at least some of those buildings you shared were preserved.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Frank. Cheers indeed. It was no easy task to gather and submit the information for this district. Given all the recent development in this little city, I would guess the historic preservation is the only reason these buildings are with us today.

      Like

  5. On an earlier post, I mentioned so many windows on the building and you talked about how much light they had to let in. This gives me a whole new appreciation for all the windows in this building. Imagine watching a sunrise or sunset through this building–magic!!
    We have so many Cheney Brothers trucks here in FL. I thought they might be part of the same family, but I don’t think so. The food distribution was founded in Florida….unless this is part of the same family. Probably not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the windows in the Ribbon Mill and in the building now occupied by the Historical Society. I’m so glad they kept that style of windows in the renovated buildings. I looked at the Cheney Brothers in your part of the country. I didn’t see any reference to having escaped from New England.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I notice that some of those windows in the weaving mills building are bricked in. It looks like that may have been intentional as they are all symmetrical and the window brick matches the brick in rest of the building. You often see older buildings in the the UK with bricked in windows as this was done deliberately to avoid the window tax that was introduced by King William III in 1696 – I guess ‘imposed’ would be a better word’. Anyway, if you had more than 10 windows you were liable. The more windows you had the more tax you paid. Nowadays they don’t tax windows – but they do tax just about everything else!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The History Center is really attractive and I especially like the Ribbon Hill apartments entrance. As usual, it makes me happy to know these historic buildings are being used rather than torn down and replaced by something modern.

    Back in Redondo Beach today (virtually) for some new tiny doors: https://sustainabilitea.wordpress.com/2022/04/28/thursday-doorssmall-doors-are-back/#tinydoors#RedondoBeach#miniaturebuildings.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

  8. These photos have a wonderful nostalgia feel about them. Perhaps it’s the rain-soaked facades adding to the building’s charm. I enjoyed the history and the former images of the Railcar storage facility 1966 image and the comparison to the present day. Thank you Dan. Wonderful share.!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’re right about the cloudy day, Deborah. The rain soaked bricks are even darker. That color green must have been popular. There are old mills all over with that shade on the windows.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Those Ribbon Mill apartments are really cute. I loved the way they worked around the existing supports in that one bedroom with den unit. The rest of the photos are terrific as well. I always enjoy seeing the 1966 and today shots. Well done, Dan

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Both of the green doors are quite attractive. Boy, these mills are (look) quite large. Reading about the turbo engine being installed for power, I wondered how the machines operated without electricity…. more a rhetorical question – like all of your other Thurs. Doors’ posts very informative Dan. Thank you for all the work you do for each Thursday!

    DAN ANTIONS THURS. DOORS – April (4)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Emille. I have a habit of answering rhetorical questions 😏

      The first steam turbines operated the same shaft and pulley system that the water wheels turned. I don’t know how many people were in each location, but there were over 4,000 workers in total.

      I liked the photos you shared today.

      Like

  11. I love all the green on red bricks in the first gallery. Such a great combo. And that tree adding its part.

    The poem-a-day April is drawing to a close, and today we were to do a concrete poem, which is a poem in the shape of something… Guess what. My gallery is from all the places that made me sigh that special door sigh the most. https://manjameximexcessive6.wordpress.com/2022/04/28/day-28-thursday-doors-poem/#poem#Tuscany#Italy#MassaMarittima

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love that you have included the apartments layout. This is certainly someplace I could live. The outside of the building is gorgeous and those doors are welcoming and beautiful. What a lovely history to the buildings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was happy to find the layouts available. Often, if the buildings are full or if they’re more private, they only offer them if you request information. I think they did a pretty good job working with the mill structure. Amazing for a building that’s 120 years old.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. A really nice looking building. My brain went to ” where is the river”. But that for wood mills, not textile. Good that it’s now housing. Looks like a nice place to live.

    Nice post.

    Pat

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes – and I love bricks – did I tell you that when we first moved to Virginia my husbands frein from San Jose flew out here for a quick visit (he combined it with work) but h said he also wanted to see the east coast bricks! And be sure of him I think I have appreciated the bricks more – and your area has a lot

        Liked by 1 person

  14. […] 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 here: https://nofacilities.com/2022/04/28/cheney-brothers-silk-mill-1/ […]

    Like

  15. I’d never thought about how these old mills needed to be near a railroad to get their supplies. I like the dark green door on the Historic Society offices. Pretty against the brick.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. This is not a second comment on your post but an entirely irrelevant question. I don’t know how else to ask it. I have had a sudden and weird change with the gmail account through which I send and receive comments and likes. One of the things I noticed is that you are listed on it with a post called “Dark Origins: African Myths and Legends, The Zulus.” I have not clicked on it. I don’t remember seeing any post from you with that title, and I thought I was getting all your posts. This whole thing has me baffled. Is this really one of your posts? I did not get the post; it just shows on this new and weird gmail listing.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Hi Dan – well I’d be happy to live in one of those apartments … and to live in an historic town … thanks for the photos – despite the grotty weather … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

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