Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Textile Mill


Saturday I had a wonderful date with the cutest young guy, my grandson Zackie. On DD's recommendation Zack and I went to the See Science Center in Manchester, New Hampshire. It is in the area known as "the Millyard" by the locals, one of whom I used to be. Neither of us had ever been there before. It was fabulous. The Center is a totally hands on experience and the children are highly encouraged to handle everything. It is great fun and every child there seemed to be having a ball. The Center was built by the genius, Dean Kamen, the man who invented heart stents, insulin pumps, omni theatres, segways, and much much more that touches our lives daily. I can remember when the Millyard was two miles of empty textile mills, known as the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company. Kamen bought up most of the buildings and they now house museums, tech companies, a university, restaurants and more. It is a vital area of the city and quite unique. This was the largest cotton textile mill in the world in it's heyday. You can read a lot about it here. It's a very interesting history.

The picture above is from 1911 and I can tell you it doesn't show the entire length and breadth of the mill.  But what I wanted you to see most at the See Science Center was a replica of the Millyard in it's heydey, ALL OUT OF LEGOS. It is the largest Lego exhibit ever built taking 2 1/2 years to build. It is so exact and is totally alive with 3500 figures, trains, bridges and building going thru a day in the life of the mill. It is huge!

In this pic bales of cotton are being loaded on to the flatbed trains. The canal runs through the length of the complex and so does the Amoskeag River on the right.



Below is a cross section of one of the buildings showing the looms and workers. There were over four thousand looms going at once. Can you imagine the noise? The clock tower, like much of the complex, stands today.



The bridge on the right brought many of the workers over to the West Side, an area of Manchester known at one time for the large French Canadian population. Young Quebec women would leave the farm to come work in the mill. The mill supplied housing but there was a long waiting list.



Below you can see in the center some of the row houses on that waiting list. Today they are expensive condominums and really lovely with so much character. Each unit has a lovely porch and gardens. Today the area is filled with trees and beautifully shaded.

This building below, which still stands as most do, is still a landmark known as the Cigar Factory and the sign is just as legible today. 



Everything is based exactly as it existed at the turn of the century when the mill was in it's heydey.  Here you can see the lovely park the benevolent owners provided.  There are over 3500 people placed in the display and that alone took 3 days to set up. 



Here you can see a parade honoring the soldiers coming back from what I would think would be WW1. I love the people on the roof watching. These buildings are all there today and the display has been built detail by detail from actual photos.








And this is my favorite spot in the display, all the people flowing out of the building after their shift is over. There were 17,000 employees. This was very hard work. People breathed copious amounts of cotton fibers into their lungs. They often went deaf from  working over the clang of 4000 looms. Many were young girls who had left the security of their families and farms in Canada and couldn't speak English. Many were the ancestors of the Manchester population today. 

While the mill is spectacular with it's foundry, train station, parks, housing, etc, it is the people who made it great and the vision of the owners who were known for their benevolence to their employees. It was the glory day of textile manufacturing in the Northeast. As transportation changed, the mills moved to the South for cheaper labor. Today they have moved from the Southern United States to off shore countries. Today's foreign mill owners are far from benevolent and workers are used like yesterday's newspaper. 

The photos  I've shown are only a small indication of the vast display. If you ever get the chance to go to the See Science Center in Manchester, NH. do visit. It is well worth the trip and I promise, little ones will love it. Hope you've enjoyed this visit..........................Bunny 



12 comments:

  1. Simply incredible. Legos are the best "toys" ever. I know your grandson was speechless!

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  2. Oh... so jealous of you :) I live on the other side of the states, so I will not get to see that any time soon, but it sounds like a wonderful place to visit.

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  3. What an amazing display! Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Forgot to say it is made with 3 and a 1/2 MILLION Legos!

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  5. My daughter loved Lego as a child. She is now a first year architecture student, so I guess she's still playing with bricks!

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  6. It just takes your breath away!

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  7. I could (and did) just sit and stare at those great pictures. It is fascinating to see how people lived and worked. For some reason the lego treatment made it almost easier to picture.
    What a wonderful day you must have had with your grandson.

    Nancy F.

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  8. Thanks for this post, Bunny. I grew up 30 miles from Manchester, and probably because my dad was in textiles, I was very aware of the Amoskeag Mills story. I was somewhat aware that it had been revitalized, but didn't know the whole story. Very interesting! My grandkids are very into Legos, so this will have to be on our itinerary next time they visit.

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