LIPPITT MILL COMPLEX

LIPPITT MILLS Lippitt Mill Lippitt Mill Plaque

Taken from Historic and Architectural Resources of West Warwick, Rhode Island: A Preliminary Report. By the RI Historical Preservation Commission. Pages 77,78 copyright 1987

LIPPITT MILLS COMPLEX (1810) The Lippitt Mills complex, sited between the intersection of Main and Wakefield Streets and the North Branch of the Pawtuxet River, comprises a number of connected structures of various dimensions, and several smaller, freestanding buildings. Sited near Main Street is the original building on the site, the Number One Mill. It is a three and one-half story, wood-shingled structure, 34 feet wide and 104 feet deep, with a clerestory monitor in its end-gable roof and a short, square tower at the front topped by an octagonal cupola. The original large doorways in the center of the fašade on each story were filled in during a 1984 renovation. Water wells to power the mill were located in the basement; the upper floors were used for weaving, spinning, and slashing. Behind the Number 1 Mill is a boiler house and engine house. A two-story ell at the left rear of the main mill, formerly a repair shop and cloth room, connects to the Number 2 Mill. This is a 160 by 45 foot structure once used for speeding, drawing, and weaving; a small ell extending at a right angle from the east side was used for carding and weaving. Also on the mill lot are a mill office, on Main Street, and several storehouses at the rear of the property.

The present dam, constructed in 1889, is sited upriver from the mill complex. From the dam, water was diverted through two headraces under the two major mill buildings. The waterways rejoined in a trail race, which returned water to the river several hundred feet below the dam.

Manufacturing at this site dates from at least 1737, when Joseph Edmonds had a saw and gristmill here. Christopher Atwood later owned the property, then his son Nehemiah owned it. In 1809, Nehemiah Atwood sold the gristmill and sawmill, land, and privilege to Christopher and Charles Lippitt, Benjamin Aborn, George Jackson, and Amasa and William Mason, who formed the Lippitt Manufacturing Company and erected a spinning mill the following year. Originally designed to be two stories high, the mill was raised to three stories during construction. Extensive additions were later made at the southern end of the structure. Yarn was put out to be hand woven in local homes, and in 1812 the company contracted with the Vermont State Prison for weaving. The company purchased more land, called the New Privilege, in 1824, and in 1830 built a bleaching mill (Number 2 Mill), and 80 by 40-foot structure, later enlarged. Later additions to the complex include a boiler house (1865), a cloth room (1865), and an engine house (1871). The mills had a capacity of 10,000 spindles in 1875 and 10,640 spindles and 210 looms in 1888.

Over the years there were gradual changes in partners, with the Lippitt playing an important role in the company's leadership. But on July 19, 1889 the entire Lippitt Company holdings here were sold to the firm of B.B. & R. Knight. The Knights made a number of improvements. They constructed a new dam and installed new power equipment and modern machinery, including ring spinners to replace some mule spinning frames. A new wheelhouse was constructed in 1901. By that time the mill had 4928 mule spindles and 231 looms, run by both steam and water power, and produced sheetings and twills. The picker house was rebuilt and a new elevator tower for Number 1 Mill was constructed in 1912. In 1925, B.B. Knight sold the Lippitt Mill property to Joseph Hayes, owner of the Riverpoint Lace Works, who used it to manufacture, dye, and leach lace. The Hayes family has retained ownership to the present, although they stopped manufacturing lace here in the early 1970s.

The 1810 Lippitt Mill is one of Rhode Island's earliest textile mills, especially notable for its wooded construction. Perhaps the oldest American textile mill still used for manufacturing; it is entered in the National Register of Historic Places. The remainder of the complex is recommended for nomination to the Register.

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