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Apartments (Valley Falls Mill, also known as Blackstone Mill)

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Valley Falls Mill, also known as Blackstone Mill
1849. 1853, dam. c. 1853, raceway gatehouse. 1363 Broad St. (at High St.)

Here the conversion from near ruin to apartments has so denatured the mill that one might not stop, except that this was once headquarters for a major textile dynasty. Controlled by the brothers Samuel B. and Harvey Chace under the corporate names of the Valley Falls Company and S. B. and H. Chace, in the twentieth century it was taken over piecemeal by other companies (this factory was absorbed by the nearby and, by then, even larger Sayles Corporation; see under Saylesville in Lincoln).

What remains from a much larger complex is a medium-sized brick mill, with windowsills and lintels trimmed in granite. It is important as another major early brick factory building. Its central tower is unusually capped with a cross-gabled roof in which each of the ridgelines slopes from its central point, the front gable less so than the others—a so-called helm roof, from an archaic term for “helmet.” If one can mentally strip the apartment “beautification” and imagine the original treatment of the tower, the proportions of the arched openings to the tower and their placement are especially handsome: a stack of wide, segmental-arched loading doors flanked by arched window slots, then a nice arrangement of company name, oculus, hoist, and, hard above it, the triplet of arches which make the tower's “face”—all openings underscored by flush granite sills. The top floor of the mill was specially constructed as clear-span space to accommodate the first American version of the British Sharp and Roberts self-actor mule-spinning frames, made in Pawtucket by James Brown. With the addition of a new dam, visible behind the mill from the Broad Street Bridge over the Blackstone, the Chace brothers were able to expand their plant on both sides of the river. Eventually most of it occupied the opposite (Cumberland) bank of the river, where now nothing exists of it but ruins ( CU1).

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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