History

 
 

HISTORY

 
 Armington & Sims Engine Co., c. 1890. Armington & Sims produced high-speed piston valve steam engines known for very accurate speed control, even with large load changes.  Thomas Edison  used these engines for his Pearl Street power plant in Manhattan because the excellent speed control would not let the lights flicker when the load changed. Source:  New England Wireless & Steam Museum

Armington & Sims Engine Co., c. 1890. Armington & Sims produced high-speed piston valve steam engines known for very accurate speed control, even with large load changes. Thomas Edison used these engines for his Pearl Street power plant in Manhattan because the excellent speed control would not let the lights flicker when the load changed. Source: New England Wireless & Steam Museum

 Gardiner C. Sims in a Machine Shop, c. 1900. Source:  The Henry Ford Collection

Gardiner C. Sims in a Machine Shop, c. 1900. Source: The Henry Ford Collection

 Armington & Sims Engine Co. Providence, Rhode Island, c. 1900.  Inside the machine shop, a system of shafts and pulleys distributed mechanical energy to rows of metal working machine tools. The machinists who worked in shops like this could tackle a wide range of jobs making America's nineteenth century machine shops a training ground for many technological innovators. Source:  The Henry Ford Collection

Armington & Sims Engine Co. Providence, Rhode Island, c. 1900.  Inside the machine shop, a system of shafts and pulleys distributed mechanical energy to rows of metal working machine tools. The machinists who worked in shops like this could tackle a wide range of jobs making America's nineteenth century machine shops a training ground for many technological innovators. Source: The Henry Ford Collection

 Exterior masonry is being restored and new roof and drain systems being installed. September 2002. Source: Phillip C Marshall.

Exterior masonry is being restored and new roof and drain systems being installed. September 2002. Source: Phillip C Marshall.

Monohasset Mill was designed in 1866 by architect James Bucklin as the Paine and Sackett Woolen Mill. The main building is a 4-story brick structure with granite trim, a flank-gambrel roof, and a 5-story flat-topped tower which originally had a steep hip roof. This main structure originally housed an engine room, boiler room, drying room, and packing room. The tower contained stairways, dressing rooms, and an elevator. The 2-story hip-roofed building contained woolshops and more boiler and engine rooms. The mill was known during its twenty-one years in operation as one of the best woolen manufacturers in the country.

In 1887 the mill was taken over by the Armington & Sims Engine company, est. in 1878 by Pardon Armington and Gardiner Sims, which was formerly located on the western part of Westminster Street. The company built engines for the Riverside Worsted Company, the Silver Springs Dying and Bleaching Company, and other mills in the US and abroad. In the 1880s the company won several gold medals for its engines at national and international expositions.

Probably due to the business depression following the panic of 1893, Armington and Sims failed in 1896 and the factory and machinery were sold off at auction to Julius Palmer, F.M. Bushnell and James M. Scott. The new company, which retained the A&S name, was sued by Armington and Sims who had not given them permission to operate under the former name. The name of the company was changed to the Eastern Engine Company and lasted until 1903.

During the 20th century, the mill was used by several worsted companies, one of which was the Cleveland Worsted Mills, which occupied the mills for almost 20 years. In the 1940s and early 50s the mill was occupied by machinery dealers, worsted mills, a rug manufacturer and a jewelry manufacturer.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Monohasset was one of a group of mill buildings on either side of Eagle Street which were home to numerous artist studios and artist collectives. Fort Thunder, one of the more famous artist mill communities in Eagle Square, was well known for its residents’ contributions to noise rock, alternative comics, and contemporary art. Forcefield – a collective started at Fort Thunder – was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial and one of the subjects of two major exhibitions at the RISD Museum in 2006 and 2014 on the impact of alternative American art movements. In 2001, Fort Thunder was demolished for a parking lot for commercial developments. The events at Eagle Square were a wake up call to artists living and working in the Woonasquatucket River Valley to take action to preserve the historic buildings and the intangible heritage of artist communities who occupied them. 

Monohasset Mill was mostly vacant when it was purchased in 2001 by The Monohasset Mill LLC with the help of the Providence Revolving Fund and Providence Preservation Society, which also served as the development consultant. Four artists, Erik Bright, Joel Taplin, David Stem, and Clayton Rockefeller, partnered with PPSRF to redevelop the 55,000 square foot historic mill as thirty-nine mixed-use live/work artist loft condominiums. The condominiums range in size from 950 square feet to over 3,000 square feet. 

The three phases of the $7.3 million development took over three years to complete. The project worked to reuse and conserve original materials as much as possible, with touches like copper doorways from Brown's Marvel gym, and wooden doors and flooring from Fort Thunder. 

Over a quarter of the units received silent second mortgages from the Providence Revolving Fund, making them affordable to low-to-moderate income buyers. These units have resale restrictions in order to ensure they remain affordable in perpetuity and available to artists who qualify. The development project received awards in 2004 and 2006 from the Providence Preservation Society for Adaptive Reuse, Neighborhood Revitalization, and Material Conservation.

Prominently situated at the corner of Eagle and Kinsley streets, Monohasset Mill is home to a thriving arts community. Monohasset Mill is a statement about adaptive reuse and historic preservation, a celebration of art and community, and a unique tribute to the mill culture of Providence’s past. The mill is listed in the city’s Industrial and Commercial Buildings District and was the first legal and affordable artist housing development under the Mill Initiative, providing housing in a market in critical need of affordable housing while also preserving Providence’s proud industrial heritage.

Monohasset Mill would not have been possible without the hard work and support from the Providence Preservation Society Revolving Fund, the Providence Economic Development Corporation, the Rhode Island Historic Preservation & Heritage Commission, James Barnes Architects, Truthbox Architects, the city planning office, the Mayor’s office, Westcott Properties, Tim More, Mike Corso and Carrie Marsh, and BankRI.

 

References

Art in Ruins

Providence Revolving Fund

Providence Preservation Society ( 2004 | 2006)

Truthbox Architects