Monadnock Mills

Site: N07-23
: Claremont, NH
: Water Street off Broad and Main Streets
Site Type
: Mill Complex
: (Zone 18) E: ?. N: ?

National Register Nomination Information:


The Monadnock Mills historic district -- including factory structures, associated buildings, and housing units -- encompasses an area that extends for about one-eighth of a mile along the southwest bank of the Sugar River from the Broad Street bridge to the former Sullivan Manufacturing Company complex at the intersection of Water and Main Streets. Also considered a part of the Monadnock district are several more structures situated on the northeast bank of the river, between the Broad Street bridge and the former company-owned steel girder footbridge, just below the first falls, behind the former Mill No. 2.

The northeast boundary of the district begins at the current City of Claremont Water Department garage between the Sugar River and Washington Street; thence, it runs as an imaginary line paralleling Washington Street in a south-easterly direction until it reaches Broad Street behind the former Store House No.3, (No 57 Broad Street) currently occupied by A & M. Automotive Parts. The line then follows Broad Street in a southerly direction by the bridge over the Sugar River to the second street on the northwest side --Crescent Street. The district boundary next extends northwest nearly the length of this street, for approximately 300 yards to the former Store House No. 1 (No. 37 Main Street), today owned and occupied by Nicholas C. Marro Plumbing and Heating Co., Inc. At the southwest corner of this building, the line extends for 150 feet slightly northwest until it intersects with Water Street, at which point it makes a right-angle turn to the northwest on Water Street, in front of the former Mill No. 3. At the southeast corner of Mill No. 31 (No. 29-33 Water Street) presently owned by Andron Corp., about 300 feet along the street the still imaginary line turns at right-angles once more and plunges down a driveway to the northeast back toward the Sugar River, with which it intersects in roughly 200 feet. Upon reaching the river, the district boundary follows it to the southeast to a point directly behind the large ell section of the former Mill No. 2, currently owned by Philip Wainshal. Here the line makes its final turn to the northeast directly toward the Water Department garage to the point where it commenced. Included in the district is Water Street, which extends on a northwest-southeast axis, including street address nos. 11-33, on the northeast side, buildings fronting on Crescent Street on the southwest side, and buildings at the southeast end facing on Broad Street.

At the center of the Monadnock Mills district, between Water Street and the Sugar River is a line of connected red-brick factory buildings (approximately 575 feet in length) dating from 1837 to c.1900. Proceeding along the street from the northwest to the southeast, the first building is a large four-story flat-roofed weaving mill, roughly 200 feet long, erected in 1892. Designated by company officials as Mill No. 3, it displays a panelled front central stair tower, and a top story, added in c. 1900. Behind this structure along a small street known as Mill Road, were a store house, waste house and weave shed, the latter of which has survived intact to the present time.

The next major structure, joined to Mill No. 3 by a one-story weave shed unit (c. 1880), is the original Mill No. 2, constructed in 1853 at a time when the company was undergoing considerable expansion. Four and one-half stories in height, it is topped by a steep-pitched slate roof, punctured by an elongated trap-door monitor of the type commonly found in New England textile mills of the day. Attached to the front facade of the building is a stair tower. The windows are all 12/12 double sash, and feature granite lintels and sills. Along the ridgepole of the roof are unsightly metal ventilators, added in the twentieth century. Attached to the rear (Sugar River) facade oŁ the building is a large flat-roofed six-story ell (c. 1912) which, it is evident from a 1909 insurance plan, replaced a wooden water-closet tower and a small boiler house.

Proceeding along Water Street, one next reaches the flat-roofed two-story connector unit between Mill No. 2 and Mill No. 1 which was erected in 1874 for the bleaching and finishing of textile goods. Mill No. 1, the oldest structure in the complex, was erected in 1844 by the parent Sugar River Manufacturing Company, and has been only slightly altered on the exterior over the years. Four and one half stories tall, and topped by a medium-pitched slate roof, this structure is nearly identical in mass to Mill No. 2, and with this later building lends a balance to the architectural composition formed by all of the connected structures along this side of Water Street. Like Mill No. 2,Mill No. 1 exhibits 12/12 double sash windows with granite lintels and sills, eaves dentil molding, and gable returns accented in granite. At the front center of this factory is a pitched roof stair tower with loading doors positioned to service each story. At the north corner of the building is a square, flat-roofed tower, appended in c. 1900. The northeast (Sugar River) facade is free of attachments today, but an 1857 lithograph of Claremont gives visual evidence of the former presence of a wooden water closet tower. This same print also shows at roof center a Georgian-style bell cupola, which, although it long ago disappeared, did leave behind its lower supporting box stage. This may still be seen, although covered with modern asphalt siding.

Last in the line, completing the Water Street complex are three connected structures, identified in the 1909 insurance plan as the picker house, the cloth room building, and the bleach house . The first of these dates from c. 1880, but is currently in the process of demolition by its owner, and therefore not pertinent for commentary. The second, a bland flat-roofed three-story block, was constructed in 1880, first as a bleachery, before the later conversion. The third -- one-story tall but otherwise similar -- was erected in c. 1900.

Between Crescent and Water Streets, also aligned on a northwest-southeast axis, are a series of buildings, all in one way or another, associated directly with the productive life of the main factory complex. Beginning at the northeast end is the one-time Store House No. 1 (No. 37 Main Street), which was built originally with one story. In recent years, it has taken a second story, and has been exposed to so much modernization, that its original character has been lost. The company office building (c.1910) beside it has experienced a better fate and has survived virtually intact to the present day. One story, with a hipped roof of slate, this structure features an open-front porch reminiscent of the earlier Bracketed Style of architecture. Neat in construction and compact in design, the office building occupies a vital spot near the center of the factory complex.

Proceeding 100 feet further down Crescent Street to the southeast, one next reaches a pair of identical two-story overseer's houses, (Nos. 31-33 and 35-37), which from their brick-work details, appear to date from about the time of the completion of Mill No. 1 -- c.1845. Situated right on the street, each of these housing units was split down the middle in order to accommodate two families. Each also possesses kitchen units on either end, which in themselves are rather unusual features. Usually these are found attached to the rear of mill houses of the period; however, in this instance, the floor plan was altered very likely because of the limited lot size and the hillside site. These house are the last remaining of several believed at one time to have been directly connected with or actually owned by the Monadnock Mills.

Next to the overseer's houses, and dating from about the same time, is a three-story pitched-roofed building that originally served the combined purposes of a store house (No. 5) and boarding house. The 1909 insurance plan indicates that this structure once possessed dormer windows and chimneys along the ridgepole, but these are no longer in evidence. Attached to the rear is a one-story store house, designated on the plan as No. 4. Directly abutting, at Nos. 1-6 Crescent Street, is a three-story wooden tenement structure, which clearly housed Monadnock workers, but was apparently not owned by the company. At the southeast ends of Crescent and Water Streets, on Broad Street, is a modern gas station -- the sole intrusion into an otherwise unspoiled 19th century mill site.

To the northeast, across the Sugar River behind Mill No. 2, is a tall stack and a complex of smaller buildings and sheds, today owned by the City of Claremont and Utilgas. This collection of one-story brick and wooden structures -- once accommodating a gas works (1859), fuel storage, and a power house (c. 1866) -- has little architectural worth, but is interesting for its technological and industrial history. About 100 yards up the river on the same side, however, is old Mill No. 3 (Store House No.3 in 1909) (No. 57 Broad Street), a curious and unusual gambrel-roof structure acquired by the Monadnock Company in 1856. Known also as the Sunapee Mill, it was built in 1843-44 as a cotton factory. The current roof, with its pitched-roof dormers, heavy cornices and dentil molding strips, very likely replaced an earlier vintage pitched-roof, characteristically found atop textile mill structures of that period and design.

The single cotton textile corporation which developed the complex and related buildings was dissolved in 1963, so that ownership today is in the hands of several different businesses and private parties. Included are a lumber company, a woolen supplier, a furniture company, a moving business, a paper supply company, a woven label manufacturer, a re-upholstering concern, an automotive parts supply store, and other small firms. The buildings thus serve a number of appropriate adaptive uses, although their respective futures are very uncertain.


The Monadnock Mills Company, whose buildings and land holdings, comprise the Monadnock Mills Company district, was once the largest and one of the oldest textile manufacturers in the upper Connecticut River Valley. It had its origins in 1831 when the New Hampshire Legislature granted to Leonard Jarvis, Joseph T. Adams, and Russell Jarvis and their associates, a charter under the name of the "Sugar River Manufacturing Company," for the purpose of manufacturing cotton and woolen goods in the town of Claremont. About 1836, spurred on by local competition, this company expended $25,000 for the purchase of land, water-power rights, and the erection of a large four-story factory building Mill No. 1), and the first tenement and boarding houses. Then, due to national economic depression and the exhaustion of funds, construction was halted, and no further progress was made until 1843. At that time, the entire interests were sold to Parker, Wilder & Parker, and others of Boston, who completed the mill and put in machinery for the production of cottonsheeting. Business was actively commenced in the next year.

In 1846, by act of the legislature, the name of the company was changed to that of "Monadnock Mills. " In 1853, the company acquired property on the north side of the Sugar River, increased its capital stock, and erected Mill No. 2, equal in capacity to Mill No. 1. The Sunapee Mill (1843-44) was purchased in 1856, and the gas works were constructed in 1859. Over the subsequent years, the company prospered, the labor force was increased and product diversification was encouraged. The mill complex was further enlarged, and the bleaching process was added in 1875. In his 1886 History of Cheshire and Sullivan Counties, New Hampshire, D. H. Hurd provides useful data about the company:

This mill produces annually 2,255,500 yards of cotton cloth, from one to three yards wide, ninety-four thousand Marseilles quilts, employs five hundred hands, and its average pay-roll is ten thousand dollars per month.

A vital factor in the growth and prosperity of Claremont in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Monadnock Mills was liquidated in 1963, and its buildings passed to various uses and owners (see attached list). Unfortunately, the history of the company since c.1900 is very sketchy due to the lack of printed materials or the company records, the latter which are believed to have been destroyed.

Architecture, Engineering (see map and accompanying key for building identifications)
The Monadnock Mills Company district contains one of the most complete and best preserved nineteenth-century textile complexes in New Hampshire. In this respect it is rivaled only by the buildings of the Salmon Falls Manufacturing Company in Rollinsford, the Sawyer Mills in Dover, the Cheshire Manufacturing Company in Harrisville, and the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in Manchester. Except for a number of workers' housing units, once situated on the north side of the Sugar River, virtually all of the original Monadnock buildings survive. Time and the weather have caused some structural deterioration, but by and large, the mills, store houses, housing units and other outbuildings have passed to the current generation with few exterior and site alterations. As a result, Claremont is fortunate to possess today a complex of great architectural and engineering value.

The former Monadnock Mills buildings are equally impressive and significant as individual structures as they are massed together in the complex. Restrained and dignified, they display only the most basic ornamentation, but express clearly their primary utilitarian purposes . Present are many of the most distinguishing characteristics of Federal era architecture, as it was perpetuated by Northern New England architects and builders in the middle of the nineteenth century -- smooth and expansive brick wall surfaces, dentil moldings, granite window lintels and sills, and cornice molding strips. Present also in the mills is the heavy wooden timber framing system -- known commonly as "slow-burning" construction -- that may be found in most New England textile mills of the same period. Furthermore, in the various mill buildings of the Monadnock complex, one may trace on one site the evolution of brick textile factory design from the middle of the nineteenth to the early twentieth century.

Of the sixteen separate buildings included in the Monadnock district, Mill No. 2 (1853) is the most important. Without qualification, the structure is one of the best examples of a medium-scale,pitched-roof, trap-door-monitor brick textile mill in New England. Another mill of the same building type, the former Robbins, Kendall & Lawrence factory (c. 1845) in Windsor, Vermont, is nearly identical (it was possibly designed and built by the same heretofore unidentified mill engineer) and in better condition, but was erected for the manufacture of firearms, and did not accommodate a textile venture until after 1870. The front central stair tower on Mill No. 2 has been altered beyond recognition, but if one looks at Mill No. 1 (c. 1836-44) connected to the southeast, one will observe a stair tower similar to it. Mill No. 1 has lost its original center bell cupola; nonetheless, for its era, it is still one of New England's finest pitched-roof brick textile factories, and gives a good idea what similar buildings at large New England urban textile centers (e.g. Lowell, Lawrence, Manchester, Nashua, Chicopee, Holyoke) must have looked like before they were either altered or destroyed In contrast to Mill Nos. 1 and 2, Mill No. 3 (1892), connected to the north west, typifies by comparison the kind of textile mill design present in New England in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries -- larger scale; interior steel as opposed to wood framing; larger window openings; a steam, rather than a water power system; a larger and more monumental stair tower and, more elaborate brickwork detail.

Few surviving nineteenth-century textile mills have retained any of their original housing units, especially those built and managed by the respective companies themselves. Hence, the Monadnock Mills Company is that much more significant architecturally because of the presence of this building type within the district. The two identical overseersą houses (c. 1845), adjacent to the mills on Crescent Street, are particularly good examples of small-scale, mid-nineteenth century factory housing, and are nearly the equal of those at Rollinsford and Harrisville, surely the best remaining in New Hampshire. The three-story brick structure next door has been altered nearly beyond recognition in recent years, but it still has value as an extant example of a workers' boarding house of the same period.

Social / Humanitarian:
The Monadnock Mills Company complex provides tangible evidence of ownership concern for the living environment of the labor force. A tradition at New England mill communities since the first Rhode Island textile villages this paternalistic spirit is reflected in the company-sponsored housing units and boarding houses, examples of which are present within the defined district. By productively associating the living and working circumstances in a planned fashion, it was felt that worker output could be maximized, and lifestyle made more pleasant.


1. Hurd, Duane Hamilton, ed. History of Cheshire and Sullivan Counties, New Hampshire. Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis & Cop., 1886.

2. Ide, Simeon. The Industries of Claremont, New Hampshire, Past and Present. Claremont, New Hampshire: The Claremont Manufacturing Company, 1879.

3. Waite, Otis F. R. History of the Town of Claremont, New Hampshire. Manchester, New Hampshire: The John B. Clarke Company, 1895.

FORM PREPARED BY: Bryant F. Tolles, Jr., Assistant Director and Librarian, The New Hampshire Historical Society, 30 Park Street, Concord, NH. Tel: not given. Date: 1974.

DATE ENTERED: February 15, 1979.
(Source 27)