Requiem For a Beacon Mill

Requiem For a Beacon Mill

 

After 202 years, one of the oldest standing mills in Dutchess County, built in 1814 at the corner of Main and East Main on the Fishkill Creek, is being demolished with little fanfare over the course of a beautiful week in April, 2016. I just hope someone is planning to save a few bits of the foundation fieldstone in order to erect a small memorial plaque in the parking lot somewhere.

My first store in Beacon back in 2002, was located at at 504 Main, directly across the street from One East Main. I’ve photographed it a number of times over the ensuing years, most recently from my apartment window. I was at work when the knock down started, but I have off on Mondays and I took some photos. To start the slideshow, click on one of the small thumbnails at the end of this post. Use the arrows to move through the photographs, and click the small x in the upper left to return to Wigwam.

But first, some history to honor its contribution to the city and to acknowledge its passing back to dust. I asked Matt Kierstead of Milestone Heritage Consulting in Marlboro, NY  if he would share his capsule industrial history of One East Main with Wigwam readers and he generously agreed. The following is excerpted from a 2012 survey of historic industrial and engineering resources in the Fishkill Creek Greenway & Heritage Trail Master Plan appendix, with subsequent edits, August 7, 2014.

1814 Schenck Cotton Mill/Matteawan Co./Carroll Hat Co. et al. (1 East Main Street) (Survey No. 34).

The One East Main Street site contains several attached and freestanding buildings, including a rare surviving 1814 cotton mill, that together reflect over 100 years of mill architecture and engineering.

The 1814 Schenck Cotton Mill was constructed by the Matteawan Company, established by Peter A. Schenck (husband of Madam Brett’s daughter), Philip Hone and noted early American fur and real estate magnate John Jacob Astor in 1812.  This company was one of the first established in the Hudson River valley to meet demands for cotton textiles created by trade embargoes associated with the Napoleonic Wars.

This building was among the first generation of masonry textile mills built on British precedent in the Hudson River valley.  Peter A. Schenck died in 1824 and his nephew Peter H. and a succession of Schencks carried on the business for several decades. The Schenks reorganized the Matteawan Co. in 1825, renaming it the Matteawan Manufacturing and Machine Co. The Schenck concerns grew to include textile concerns, foundries, wood working and machine shops which eventually occupied all four quadrants in the area divided by the creek and what is now East Main Street.

One East Main windows 1814

The foundry, on the east side of the creek, made cotton machinery and, in 1848-1849, two steam locomotives for the new Hudson River Railroad. A complicated series of workshop openings, closures and relocations took place in the pre-Civil War decades. To add confusion to the similar corporate names, in 1864 the Schencks sold off their property east of the Main Street Dam (Survey No. 39) to a newly-formed Matteawan Manufacturing Company (Survey No. 40), a separate corporate entity organized by Charles M. Wolcott to manufacture fine wool hats. The 1814 Mill later housed John Falconer’s Seamless Clothing Mfg. Co. from 1860 to 1879, then Carroll & Company’s National Felt Works in 1879.  This company became  the William Carroll & Co., maker of wool & straw hats by 1907, and lasted until ca. 1924.

The 1814 Mill has been altered and its physical integrity impacted. The original gable roof with trapdoor monitor windows was replaced with an additional story and flat roof in 1888, likely to meet industrial fire insurance regulations which prohibited flammable roof structures. The front stair tower with its ornate mansard roof was destroyed in a Penn Central freight train derailment in 1976.

Despite these alterations, the building still  expresses its original function and design in its massing, fenestration, parged rubblestone walls and brownstone quoins and lintels. The building reportedly incorporated a stone inscribed with the date “1814,” however the location and survival of this stone are unconfirmed. This unusual surviving early nineteenth-century masonry textile mill building may be the last, or among the last remaining example of its type in the Hudson River valley.  The building is slated for demolition as part of site redevelopment.

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In 1912 the Schrader Hat Company (the factory complex was popularly known as “Carroll’s”) built a massive four-story addition to the 1814 Mill. This was reportedly the most modern straw hat factory in the U.S. when completed. This building is an excellent representative example of the then-new generation of early twentieth-century “daylight” factories with narrow piers, wide windows, and heavy floor loading capacities, served by electric elevators. After the Carroll Hat Company, subsequent tenants included Hedstrom-Union (baby carriages) in 1936; Bobrich, and, later, Stankolls (electric blankets), 1946-1961; and later, Three Star Anodizing, which subdivided the buildings and rented out space. Duramatic aluminum boats and Dorel Hat Co., Beacon’s last hat manufacturer, were among last manufacturing tenants.

Together these buildings reflect one hundred years of industrial architecture and mill engineering. The 1814 Mill in particular reflects the important and pervasive U.S. contexts of early cotton mill construction in response to War of 1812 embargoes, subsequent industrial boom-and-bust and diversification responses, and continued adaptive reuse through mid-twentieth century industrial decline. The property also includes a ca. 1832 two-story brick factory building south of the 1814 Mill, as well as the potential archaeological site of the ca. 1800 Schenck grist mill on the creek bank.

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(Author’s note:  The above information is based on survey-level research confined to the archives of the Beacon Historical Society and may be subject to revision).

Addendum: The 1814 Mill is a sister structure to the stone mill in Pleasant Valley, NY. That mill recently burned and the site is now a memorial park with some recreated stone walls. There may be a connection to Providence, RI millwright John Buckley, who left Almy & Brown there and came to Dutchess, Orange and Ulster counties to set up mills at that time.

 

 

 

4 Responses to Requiem For a Beacon Mill

  1. Mara Farrell says:

    Very sorry to read this. I was unfortunately unaware of this demolition plan. What a loss for Dutchess County.

  2. Bob Kacur says:

    Interesting recap of the history of that structure. Some things, whether structural,mechanical or biological are beyond saving. Bob McAlpine and family have done a great service to the City of Beacon for restoring the buildings that they have. Many of these would have fallen on their own in the past years if not for the vision of these folks.

  3. Steve Smith says:

    Out of the way! Progress coming through!
    Just don’t forget to feed the parking meter.

  4. Timothy Delaney says:

    This building was a wonderful architectural relic and I’m very sorry to see it go. I suppose that’s something called “progress”.

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