Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Photos of Taftville/Ponemah Mill in eastern Connecticut

Here are some photos I took of the Taftville/Ponemah Mill building in Taftville, Connecticut, during a family trip in Summer 2009. None of my photos do justice to the size of this building, which was constructed in 1866. To get a better idea of what you're looking at, here are two public-domain postcard images from Wikipedia:

Above: The mill in 1907

Above: The mill in 1918

An 1950s aerial view of the complex, taken by Bill Stanley, accompanies the 2008 article titled "Once Upon A Time: Taftville’s character was built by Ponemah Mill" that he wrote for the Norwich Bulletin. In an excerpt from that terrific article, Stanley writes about how the mill defined the town:
Taftville was a monument to the power of the textile giants who used to move into an area and literally create an entire town. They built the mill, the housing, the stores, and they owned and controlled everything. ... Before the 1938 hurricane1, Taftville was like a storybook town with huge trees bordering both sides of Providence Street.
There's more great history in the rest of Stanley's article.

Here is some additional history on the mill from Wikipedia, along with a couple more of my 2009 photos:
The Taftville Cotton Mill, a cotton textile factory, was built on the Shetucket River where a large dam could be built to provide power. The large mill building (Building No. 1) was purported to be the largest weave-shed under one roof at that time. The original workers were predominantly Irish immigrants, and they were hard hit by the depression of the 1870s that began with the Panic of 1873. Unemployment rose and wages dropped appreciably from 1873 to 1875, causing bitter relations between workers and management in many places.

In April 1875, the 1,200 workers went on strike. The mill owners had raised rents in company-owned housing as well as prices at the company-owned store. Wages at the time were under $10 for a 67-hour work week. In one often-cited anecdote, a workingman said he and his daughter had worked full time for more than three months but only had four dollars between them to show for it. The immediate cause of the strike was a pay cut of 12 percent in an attempt to stop unionization. Workers were told half of the pay cut would be restored to anyone who had not participated in trying to form a union at the company.

The company replaced the workers with French Canadians, who would come to number more than 70 percent of the population [of Taftville].

Ponemah Mills operated for about 100 years.

What's next for the site? It is perhaps in the process of becoming luxury apartments -- "The Lofts at Ponemah Mills".

"The Lofts" would have 308,000 square feet of total space. It would feature 241 units, a game room, a media room and a fitness center. According to the realtor:
  • $5 million in state historic tax credits are available
  • More than $6 million in federal historic tax credits are available
  • A "Fortune 500 company" has offered to purchase the federal historic tax credits
  • Interior demolition and asbestos abatement have been completed. Temporary electric and temporary standpipes have been installed for construction. The building has been stabilized and is currently watertight and in "very good condition."
  • Environmental cleanup has been completed
Any guesses regarding whether this 145-year-old building is ever actually converted into luxury apartments?

1. That would be the September 1938 hurricane that has been dubbed the Great New England Hurricane, the Long Island Express and The Great Hurricane of 1938.


  1. I am so glad you blogged about these! If you hadn't, I don't know if, 10 years from now, I'd have remembered all this!

  2. Thank you for posting these pictures! My Grandmother grew up in Taftville. Her father was a boss in the mill and she was a secretary.

  3. Im trying to fine an old black and white photo of my grandmother with other coworkers at Panema mill Taftville Ct around 1940s. they were posed around the machines they worked. please respond at pjfedorshak@yahoo.com i know there is such a photo they all had copies mine was lost to a thief!!!