history of the mill

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newton upper falls
history of the mill

My grandparents worked in the silk factory at the Newton Upper Falls Mill when they came to the US in 1906.  The following information was provided to me by the Newton Historical Commission.  The factory/mill has now become the Echo Bridge Mall




381-385 Elliot St.

Describe architectural, structural and landscape features and evaluate in terms of other areas -within the community.

Built on the edge of the Charles River from which the early mills derived power is this collection of buildings all attached to form a complex most of which was constructed by the mid 1800s. The oldest and the newest sections are best seen from Chestnut Street and display stone and brick facades. The mill complex is nearly enclosed with an opening on the south end through which one enters a court yard which the buildings surround. From within the courtyard one can see the similarity of design and construction conveying the rapid expansion of these mills. Window changes substantially alter the appearance of sections however the repetitive rhythm of openings is maintained in most respects. The oldest section is on the north end built into the ledge high over the river and the newest on the east side - that part which has been converted to the Mall at Echo Bridge. The various sections are two and three stories. No clerestory windows remain. Nearly all roof surface is asphalt with the exception of that over the restaurant entrance within the courtyard which is slate.

Explain historical development of the area. Discuss how this area relates to the historical development of the community.

The large mill complex was one of the most successful long term businesses in the area. This site high above the river has a history of mill sites. As early as 1688 late nineteenth century accounts state that John Clark of Brookline came and established a saw-mill here after which a grist and fulling mill were added. During the Revolution these mill sites were sold to Simon Elliot, a tobacconist from Boston, who had snuff mills here. In 1814 the property became the Elliot Manufacturing Company with Frederic Cabot as agent. King's Handbook of Newton states that seven years later, in 1821, the cotton factory was built on the site of the old snuff mills. Thus began this complex with the stone and brick building on the north edge of the U-shaped complex. Others involved in this venture were Abbott Lawrence and Thomas Handasyd Perkins.
Otis Pettee (1795-1853) came to work for Elliot Manufacturing Company as a supervisor and left Elliot in 1831 to establish his own mills for the production of cotton manufacturing equipment. He was so successful that in 1840, only one year after his entire complex had burned and been rebuilt, he purchased the Elliot Manufacturing Company. During Pettee's ownership the product was changed from cotton sheeting to print goods. After Pettee's death in 1853 the mills were sold to Newton Mill Company and substantially enlarged probably connecting the two mills which are demonstrated on the 1831 and 1848 maps with the addition of the two long ells extending south from the early building. The 1855 footprint includes all parts except the large eastern most section which was added in the twentieth century. The Newton Cotton Mills had a daily output of 12,000 to 14,000 yards of print goods. These mills failed in the early 1880s and were bought by a New Jersey silk manufacturing firm. The silk mills continued into the twentieth century. During the early mill days the mill buildings were surrounded by mill housing along Chestnut and Elliot Streets in the area which is now parking lot. Some were built in the early days of Elliot Manufacturing Company and during Pettee ownership.


Referring to the map the building is described briefly in sections:

A. Built in ca. 1821 is this three story eight bay deep brick building with low stone ell projecting north. The stone section has six-over-six sash and a concrete platform. The gambrel roofed brick section has eight-over-four sash in the gable peak, and twelve-over- twelve in other windows.


B. Closest to the river is this second section, probably built to connect two small mills as shown on the 1848 map, thus the construction of this would be ca. 1850. It is twelve bays long with the Mills Falls Restaurant Colonial Revival entrance tucked in the north corner and connecting this section to the original building. A parapet wall separates this part of the building from its continuation. The small Colonial Revival entrance section which connects Section A and Section B has a slate roof, brick facing, and three pediment dormers with six-over-nine sash.

C. The continuation south of the parapet wall has its ridge running in a north-south direction in the same way as the earlier connecting section. Most windows have been replaced. This section south of the parapet wall has segmental arched windows on the end and may have been the second mill shown on the 1831 and 1848 may which was then connected by Section B. The land drops substantially to the river along the edge of this section of the building making it two stories on the south end and three in the area between its south end and the parapet wall. A small section projects from the long one with its ridge on an east-west axis and somewhat closing the courtyard entrance. This part shows on the 1855 map.

D. The long ell extending from the original building is twenty-two bays long with granite block first floor and brick above with granite window lintels. This section is really only visible from within the courtyard due to the changes on the east side with small additions and the large twentieth century addition. Most windows have been replaced.

E. The newest section is the Mall at Echo Bridge which was remodelled with parapet storefronts in 1974. This building is two long parallel sections with fifteen bays all accented by slightly projecting brick piers. The north-south ridges of this twentieth century brick addition are parallel to the ridge of Section D also.