Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Mill Buildings Demolished at Clocktower

CORRECTION: End of third paragraph states that older, wooden buildings no longer exist. Historical Society says that one building was moved to Main Street, between Quarterdeck and RiverRock Grill, where it is now an apartment building. 

Mill & Main has begun in earnest its plan to enlarge and make more inviting access to the mill complex from Main Street, by tearing down Buildings 2A and 10. The intent is to create an easy flow for foot traffic from the street into the open spaces, which will include (hopefully) a variety of retail stores and eateries. A description, map, images and a video are all posted at Marketing descriptions include "Where heritage has a heartbeat," and "All work. And all play."

Building 10 of Maynard mill complex, in front of Building 12
If the plan succeeds, the net effect will be to more than double the number of retail businesses on Main Street west of the river. Given that there are currently more than a dozen empty retail spaces on Nason and Main Streets east of the river, this does raise concerns about supply in excess of demand. The expectation is that the very large remainder of Mill & Main will be renting out to office and light industry businesses, and that this increase in the work-related population of Maynard will supply the demand to match the supply.  

Building 10 almost completely gone, mid-March 2016. Across back is 
Building 2, the oldest still standing. Click on any photo to enlarge.
What was lost in the recent tear-down? Historical Society records date both ex-buildings to 1887, during the era when Lorenzo Maynard was Agent at the mill, having succeeding his father in 1885. However, there is contradictory information. An image commemorating the 40th anniversary of the mill, 1846-1886, appears to show both buildings already in place. A few years earlier, the well-known aerial view image from 1879 shows what looks like Building 2A, but not Building 10. The oldest buildings still standing, now collectively referred to as Building 2, date back as early as 1859. (Older buildings, dating back to 1846, were wood construction and no longer exist.)    

Brickwork on Building 2A. Note headers every 8th row.
Both 2A and 10 were of brick and timber construction, two stories tall, size roughly 15x40 yards. Each building had about 10,000 square feet of floor space, and materials included roughly 100,000 bricks. (Estimates for the entire complex are five to ten million bricks.) Sharp-eyed observers can tell whether a brick-walled building is structurally supported by the brick wall versus the brick serving only as a facade. In this instance, walls of the destroyed buildings were structural in nature, three bricks thick. Outer- and inner-facing bricks consisted of rows of lengthwise bricks - stretchers - but tellingly, every seventh or eighth row had bricks end on - headers. The pattern is known as American bond. This practice attached the surfaces of the wall to the brick and mortar core.    

An example of brick as facade is the four story apartment building on Main Street, next to McDonald's restaurant. This is actually a wood-frame building; the brick facade making no structural contribution. Instead, the brick serves as a waterproof, low maintenance, outer surface, and also stylistically blends into Maynard's downtown core of brick buildings.

Removal of yellow brick chimney in October 1956.
There was a ladder up the outside. Men climbed to
the top to hammer pieces loose. Because of the
dangerous commute, they brought their lunches
with them. The entire process took 17 days.
The tear-downs of Buildings 2A and 10 were not the first time that significant structures have been removed from the mill complex. Up until 1956 the mill was graced by twin chimneys of near-equal height. One was removed in October of that year by extremely hazardous means: men stood on scaffolding affixed to the outside of the chimney and used sledgehammers to knock bricks inward. A large hole made at the base allowed bricks and mortar to be hauled away. The Historical Society has a series of photos taken over a two week period showing the chimney getting progressively shorter and shorter.

At an undetermined date the remaining chimney, no longer functioning as such, was shortened a bit and capped. It now functions as a cell phone tower.  

The aforementioned aerial image from 1879 shows two shorter chimneys elsewhere on the property - both gone by 1915. The mill also had its own coal gasification facility, to make gas for gaslight, now the site of the east end of Building 5, but more on that another time.

Working title for this column was "And the walls come tumbling down."  That is a line from the chorus of the gospel classic "The Battle of Jericho."  A near match is "When the walls come tumblin' down," which is from the 1983 John Cougar Mellencamp song "Crumblin' Down." Which is not the same as "When the walls came tumbling down," by Def Leppard. 


  1. Excellent article, thank you!

  2. Hi, David. I don't see an email address for you anywhere, so I hope you don't mind this question here. Do you know what has happened to the magnificent desk in the rear room of Gruber's Furniture? It must go to someone or some organization who will cherish it and keep using it! Do you know if it has found a new home? Thanks!

  3. Good question. My guess is that it is still in the building. I will try to contact Mr. Gruber, to ask. Might be hard to find a home for it, as its huge!

  4. Yes, please do. I'm betting if enough people knew about it, someone would find a home for it. Maybe an artist or craftsperson could genuinely use it.

  5. Please do ask. I feel sure it has a future somewhere! I think an artist or craftsperson might find it perfect for holding supplies and tools. I hope so. I'll help look; it would be a shame for it to be demolished or hauled to the dump.