But even large corporations have vanity, and
many of the boxes were adorned with architectural flourishes, sometimes along cornices and
almost always at their stair towers and cupolas. Perhaps the most famous of these is the
star-spangled blue Moorish dome of the Colt
firearms factory in Hartford. For fancy stair
towers, it’s hard to beat the mansard-roofed
octagonal confection at the Continental Mill
in Lewiston, Maine.
Today, New England as textile titan is
a long-faded memory, and its many old mill
buildings need new uses or risk destruction.
Lowell is perhaps the most successful model
of factory reinvention. “Lowell maxed out at
about 5 million square feet of factory floor,”
says Charles Parrott, architect at the Lowell
National Historic Park. “About half of it survives today, and we’re seeing 85 to 90 percent
of that being converted to office and residential space. After years of neglect, people now
see the value in these buildings.”
AWAKENING THE SLEEPING GIANT
Not all mills are slumbering or being converted
to condos. At the Lowell National Historical Park
in Lowell, Massachusetts, some offer a taste of
America’s Industrial Revolution as it played out
in the country’s first manufacturing city.
Established in 1978 amid the ruins of the city’s
textile past, the
park was the
vision of local
teacher Patrick J.
Mogan and a
in their original
elements of the
process — from
canal to millrace to turbine to the Boott Cotton
Mills Museum’s massive weaving rooms
JIM HIGGINS/NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
(pictured) with working power looms. Nearby,
there is even a boardinghouse that preserves
the living quarters of “mill girls” and immigrant workers.
The park is free and open year-round.
Some exhibits and tours are by appointment,
and the cotton-mill museum charges a fee,
as do the excellent canal-by-boat tours.
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