Sunday, November 28, 2010

Exploring the old Manville Mill - November 27th

With the holiday, things were pretty busy last weekend, but I was able to get out for a couple of hours of paddling on Saturday.

I thought I would do a little park and play in the rapids below the Manville Dam, but I got bored and decided to explore the foundation of the old Manville Mill instead. The Manville Mill was built in 1878 and was one of the largest mills of its day. In this side view, you can see the flywheels and raceways built into the foundation.

Here’s a picture of the Manville Mill complex as it appeared in the early 1950’s. You can see the Manville Dam in the foreground, and a large section of the mill extending over the river. By this time, the Manville Mill was the largest textile mill in the US with over 5,00 employees.

This is a picture of the Manville Mill during the massive flooding caused by Hurricane Diane in 1955. The first floor of the mill is under water, and the center span over the river has collapsed.

Two weeks later, repairs were underway when a fire started in the 1878 section of the mill. With the sprinkler system disabled due to flood damage, the fire spread quickly.

Here is the mill after the fire. The remaining structures were later demolished leaving only the foundation.

I paddled down to the far end of the foundation, and checked out one of the old raceways that still runs under the foundation.  There are six in total, but most of them are hided behind weeds and bushes.

I climbed up these back stairs into what was the old mill.

At this level, I am actually on the old mill floor.  You can see one of the old turbine shafts ahead.

Another shot of the old turbine shaft with a tree growing up from the raceway below. Concrete construction indicates that this was a later addition.

One of the original granite-lined flywheel shafts from the 1878 mill. Don’t fall in there – it’s a good 20 feet to the bottom.

Another view of the raceway below the foundation.

Historic pictures from the Woonsocket Harris Public Library


  1. Thanks for posting the great pictures of the Manville Mill - November 27th.
    It is difficult to find pictures of this old mill online, as it was and now is.
    Gary Leib, Planning, Town Hall, Cumberland
    PS. The Town of Cumberland is building a park on its land at the dam. For more info contact John Aubin 728-2400 x 142

  2. Thank for posting my Mom worked there when she was young that's where she met my Dad. He was a volunteer fireman in Manville at the time of the fire. He says the fire was so hot his suit was starting to melt, of course in the 50's the fire gear wasn't like today. They spoke often of the mill.

  3. Thank you for posting the pictures. My mother worked in the mill when she was in her twenties. I remember walking down to see the fire when the mill burned.