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Lane Shops Apartments (Lane Manufacturing Company)
In 1789 the waterfall in the North Branch of the Winooski River, near today's Mechanic Street, became the site for a gristmill, and, by the 1830s, a stove and iron foundry and a machine shop. In 1863 Dennis Lane acquired the property. Lane had invented and patented a “lever-set” sawmill that allowed circular saws to produce dimensioned lumber more accurately and quickly, facilitating the balloon-frame construction that was becoming increasingly commonplace. On the Winooski, Lane and his partners launched what would become one of the world's major producers of sawmill equipment.
Between 1868 and 1925, the enterprise built a substantial manufacturing complex, parts of which remain. The foundry and machine and forge shops, largely from the 1890s, line the east side of the river, near a pedestrian bridge that connects Vine and Mechanic streets. A ten-bay, three-story section of the long brick structure is capped by a corbeled cornice and a gabled roof with trapdoor monitor and cupola. Other structures in the complex include the pattern house, where the wood templates for making iron castings were kept, and the one-story, mansard-roofed company offices.
By the mid-1970s, most of the complex was in disuse except for a woodworking building where the founder's great grandson made replacement parts for the hundreds of Lane sawmills still in use around the world. A 1977 fire consumed that building and ignited a movement to save the surviving structures. Most have been converted into housing, supplemented by a new frame unit, generally on the footprint of the woodworking building. A reconstructed flyover with a “Lane Shops” sign reinforces the industrial feeling of a complex that is significant as the home of a historically important industry and as a successful adaptive reuse of industrial structures.
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