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Woonsocket Manufacturing Company Mill Buildings (Bernon Mills)
These two mills are the best extant examples in Woonsocket of early nineteenth-century stone mills. Owners who very shortly went bankrupt built the first mill, begun just a little before the Jenckes No. 2 Mill ( WO5). It is the less imposing of the Bernon pair in its masonry construction, with uncoursed granite walls, rough stone headers, and corner quoins. But the profile of its slit monitor roof is handsome. Moreover, it is the first known mill in the United States (if present scholarship holds) to have been built to “slow-burning” structural specifications: that is, with floors and beams thick enough to char without burning through, thus sparing the machinery from a destructive crash into the basement in the event of fire. It became the standard for American mill construction into the first decades of the twentieth century, thereby hampering the development of iron and steel framing for American factories, because conservative fire insurance companies preferred to stay with what had been tested.
If the Bernon No. 1 Mill was
The image of this mill must be related to the vision that Dorr and Allen had for their mill village as a model community. It was they who named the village Bernon, after Huguenot Gabriel Bernon, a much admired ancestor of the Allen family. Not only was their mill yard (now a parking lot) once planted with trees and grass all the way to Front Street, but the cottages they provided up on the hillside, only one of which remains (208 Park Street), were reputed to be of above-average quality. Most remarkable, Dorr and Allen's vision of their model mill village was somewhat less paternalistic than that of most mill owners. They provided the opportunity for certifiably sober workers to purchase house lots in the village. How many of their employees took this temperance carrot for the apparent security of home ownership is unknown. As early as 1887 these mills ceased to be used for textile production. Even earlier, the ideal village had passed into oblivion, leaving scant evidence today of its appearance.
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