Abandoned Vermont: Safford Mills Complex

At the corner Vermont Route 100 and “A” Street (or simply an extension of Main Street) sit two red clapboard buildings overlooking the Lamoille River at the edge of the Morrisville Historic District. Once important structures to a village, mill complexes don’t often serve industrial purposes today. If they have not been adaptively reused to meet the needs of a modern population, mill buildings sit empty. Such is the case in Morrisville. These buildings are currently owned by Morrisville Water & Light, appearing to be buildings no longer used, though in good condition.

(Some information from the National Register Nomination – these buildings are contributing structures in the Morrisville Historic District.)

The warehouse and grist mill date to 1867 as part of the Safford Mills Complex, constructed for and owned by J. Safford & Sons. The warehouse is a Greek Revival style clpaboard industrial building. While its original purpose is unclear, its location and plan suggest it was the receiving office/warehouse for the grist, saw, and wood-turning mill below. Its front is 1.5 stories, while the rear is 3.5 stories from the bottom of the bluff. Freight doors at the top and bottom and a platform elevator inside allowed flour, lumber, and other finished goods to be raised easily to the to of the bluff, thus avoiding a steep ascent by wagon via the access road.

The Safford Mills Complex as seen from Route 100.

The Safford Mills Complex as seen from Route 100.

Side of the warehouse.

Side of the warehouse.

Looking up the hill to the warehouse.

Looking up the hill to the warehouse.

Closed up, but looking well maintained on the exterior.

Closed up, but looking well maintained on the exterior.

The box cornice, pilaster, gable returns, and lintels are typical of Greek Revival architecture.

The box cornice, pilaster, gable returns, and lintels are typical of Greek Revival architecture.

The grist mill.

The adjacent grist mill is also Greek Revival style with corner pilasters, gable returns, and (now hidden) 6/6 window sashes. This 2.5 story mill has a 35’x35′ footprint, a steeply pitched roof, and 4 bay fenestration.

View back to Main Street.

View back to Main Street.

The Saffords, owners of the mill complex, were a prominent family in Morrisville and resided in the adjacent Noyes House, a federal style brick mansion.

The Noyes House (now a Museum) across the street from the mill complex.

The Noyes House (now a Museum) across the street from the mill complex.

The good news is that Morrisville is on the upswing. Recently completed tax credit projects on Main Street show that there is interest and growth in the village. Perhaps there is life left for the Safford Mill buildings.

Any good mill projects in your small town?


Preservation Photos #116

Coal hoppers from the historic coal1953 fired generating plant, the Moran Plant, in Burlington, VT. Click for higher quality image.

Read more about the Moran Plant here and about the redevelopment plans here.

Baling the Christmas Tree

Do you have a Christmas tree in your house? Do you prefer real or artificial, fresh-cut or chosen from a lot? Some of my favorite holiday childhood memories includes hunting for a Christmas tree on a tree farm with my parents and sisters. We couldn’t always find a tree to cut — for a while it was much too expensive so we had to resort to those already cut (I suppose the tree farms ran out of old enough trees). Thankfully the trees are tall enough once again so my parents can still cut down a fresh tree. And, to my delight, up here in Vermont we have many tree farms.

One part of the tree farms that I always liked – aside from the wagon rides on some farms – was watching the trees get baled by those crazy looking machines. Much to my delight, the tree farm near us had a seemingly older tree baler in operation. Rather than white plastic rope or some white plastic netting, this baler wrapped the tree in red twine. How festive! (In full disclosure, I know nothing of tree baler history. Searching Google Patents reveals some Christmas tree balers in the 1950s and 1960s. My guesses are only guesses – not facts. Feel free to jump in.)

Christmas tree baler in operation. The metal plate reads "Howey."

A search for Howey tree baler finds that this company has been making tree balers since 1967.

Red twine! Metal hooks attach to the bottom tree limbs.

The end of the machine. The pulley system is on the other side - it seems to operate in a circular or oblong shape.

All baled up and ready to go, with help from the tree farm employee.

So, any tree baler historians out there? How about you industrial archaeologists? Fill me in! I’d bet this one is a few decades old. The farm had a newer one (shinier, white plastic rope) in operation as well, but I much prefer this one. If we go back next year to the same farm, I’ll ask a few questions.

Enjoy your Christmas tree cutting and decorating!

Gold in Them Thar Hills: Part Four

SIA 2010 Overview. Part One. Part Two. Part Three.

The SIA tour led our group to the Mollie Kathleen Mine, the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad, and Victor, Colorado. Our last stop of the day was a part of the Cripple Creek & Victor Mine: American Eagles Scenic Overlook. It is an 1895 mine complex with a shifter’s office, a superintendent’s house, a blacksmith shop, and the headframe and hoist from the mine. The buildings are weathering away, in that picturesque sort of way. It provides an opportunity for visitors to see (a sort of) ghost town. It overlooks the continental divide, the wind blows strong, and the view is breathtaking.

The trail to the overlook is a long stairway.

From the overlook. The foreground is the currently operating open pit Anglo Ashanti mine.

Miles upon miles beyond the mine.

The superintendent's house.

Looking inside the superintendent's house.

Another view of the house.

Floorboards of the shifter's house.

Floorboards of the shifter's house.

Time at work.

As you can tell by the pictures, I spent most of my time around the buildings, as a true building lover would, but the industrial archaeologists, true to themselves, spent most of their time around the mine structures. Thus, I cannot explain much about the mine itself. This was the case for much of the day, which amused me.  However, we all gazed across the continental divide. How beautiful. Another must see spot.

Gold in Them Thar Hills: Part Three

SIA 2010 Overview. Part One. Part Two.

In order to not overwhelm one post with images, there will be three (or four) posts about Gold in Them Thar Hills.

So far our tour consisted of the Mollie Kathleen Mine and the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad. The giant tour bus ventured on windy Colorado roads to Victor, CO. Victor felt more authentic than Cripple Creek; with ghost signs, tired buildings, and that western feeling (without the Hollywood effect). In Victor we all ate lunch in the park and had some time to wander around the unique & interesting Victor Lowell Thomas Museum. The museum featured local history exhibits, mining history exhibits, and furnished rooms upstairs. Our visit was short, and I would have liked more time to wander around Victor.

Ah, I loved Victor, CO.

Neat signs and buildings on the small business strip.

Victor's streetscape.

Merchant's Cafe. Great coffee, great owner with entertaining stories, great atmosphere. It totally made my day. Go there and say hi to Alex, the baker in the back. In the 1970s, Alex owned an organic bakery in Putney, VT. What a small world! Visit the website.

The tour continued just outside of Victor, but that’s an entirely different set of photographs.One more from Victor:

Another shot in Victor; the town could use a spruce (but it's still lovely!)

Gold in Them Thar Hills: Part One

SIA 2010 Overview.

In order to not overwhelm one post with images, there will be three (or four) posts about Gold in Them Thar Hills.

Friday June 4 was the tour day of the conferences, of which I chose to attend “Gold in Them Thar Hills.” (Okay, the title got me hooked and it’s fun to say.) The tour bus departed Colorado Springs at 7:30am and headed up Highway 24 and Highway 67 to Cripple Creek, CO. The scenery on the way was spectacular: mountainous, green, vibrant brown rock, shrubs, and Pike’s Peak in site for much of the time. Oh, and we saw the world’s highest ferris wheel (highest as in elevation, not tallest).

The aforementioned world's highest ferris wheel.

Pike's Peak in the distance, somewhere around Divide, CO.

Our first stop was the Mollie Kathleen Mine in Cripple Creek, which is a family owned active gold mine in the winter months with tours open to the public in the warmer months.  The surface of the mine overlooks the town of Cripple Creek. At the mine visitors travel 1000′ (10 stories!) below the surface. Hard hats and closed-toe shoes are mandatory and warm jackets are recommended. To enter the mine, you have to squeeze into the mine shaft cage. The descent takes about two minutes during which time you cannot see your hand in front of your face. A guide takes about 8-9 people on each one hour tour, where the guide tells and shows the history of mining at different exhibits, demonstrating the tools and techniques used. It is such an interesting tour! On the surface there are cars, machines, mining cars and other vehicles to explore (not to mention an awesome giant hat). The views are also incredible.

Welcome to the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine.

View from the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine.

In the mine: miner's tools, railroad tracks, and the homemade rail bicycle (no brakes!)

In the mine!

Miner's hat!

Uniform bell signals were invented for all of the Colorado mines to insure safety and understanding when workers changed mining operations.

"View from the top of the world only 25 cents." This sign was just sitting on the ground, but I loved it.


Side note: This is post #500 on Preservation in Pink!

Preservation Photos #35

Dust blown, worn by the climate, and left to deteriorate at the American Eagles (abandoned) mine overlook near Victor, CO. One of my favorite pictures from the SIA tour.

SIA Conference

View of the Teller County, CO sky and Highway 67.

SIA report part 1: overview

Colorado Springs: June 3 – 6, 2010. What do you get when you combine archaeologists, engineers, physicists, preservationists, software programmers, and others? A cross-section of the attendees at the Society for Industrial Archeology conference. It’s a diverse group, some involved professionally and some only in terms of avocation (or perhaps obsession). Some are working in the field, a few of us are students, and some are retired and remain active members.

The SIA studies, protects, and advocates for the machines and the environment that has propelled the industry of our culture: power sources, functions, machinery, waterwheels, railroads, mining structures, geology. Perhaps an unlikely combination (preservationists and engineers are friends?!) but the strength of the SIA lies in its diversity of knowledge and expertise.

An SIA conference is different from others that I have attended in that there is only one day of papers and the other days are spent touring and studying the areas. In fact, a day of tours is included in the registration fee. Additional days of touring incur additional costs. Thursday and Sunday are such the case, but the Friday tours and Saturday papers are generally attended by all.  For those on a budget like myself, you will be happy to know that many meals are included: a welcoming reception, a breakfast, lunch on the tour, and the luncheon member business meeting. (The food was delicious, for anyone concerned.)

It’s a smaller group than organizations such as the National Trust, so it feels more personable. This was my first experience traveling alone to a conference where I didn’t know a soul. I spent the 2 1/2 days sitting at tables and on buses with strangers and meeting lots of interesting people. It’s probably something that I would not have done as an undergrad, but now (older and braver) the experience was very good. SIA members are friendly and welcoming and all have good stories to tell.  It didn’t take long to feel welcomed by the SIA veterans.  I am grateful for the friendliness and the conversation. (Side note: for any students interested in industrial archaeology, you should definitely join and get involved. Members are looking for young newbies!)

Paper sessions ranged from railroads to bridges to historic forts to waterwheels to iron structures to international industrial archaeology and so much more. I presented a paper on the Lake Champlain Bridge as a case study for preservation policy, and thoroughly enjoyed sharing it with conference attendees.

In addition to talking to people on tours and at meals, the paper sessions prove just how dedicated these members are to their research and interests. What I’ve learned about the SIA members is that they all want details and more details! They want to know, in full, how something operates and its history. And those who have been studying this for a while have an incredible bank of information. The SIA conference is definitely a wonderful place to meet people, to learn about the area you’re visiting, and to hear exciting research. It is truly one of the fun conferences.

Check back for SIA Tours (and pictures) Wednesday.

Industrial Archaeology in Colorado

These past few days here in Colorado Springs for the Society for Industrial Archaeology 2010 conference have been filled with mining culture and operations, mountain views, scenic roads, never-ending blue skies, and of course a wonderful day of paper sessions.

The expansive view from the Cripple Creek & Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Of course, we did talk about more than mining; I just happened to go on the mining tour. I couldn’t resist; it’s title was “Gold in Them Thar Hills.” That’s just a teaser for now. This is, too:

Again, how could I resist? I may have been the only to take a picture of this sign. You can't keep me away from the kitsch, but, yes there were burros at play (just not near the sign).

Sunday is a very long travel day for me with shuttles, layovers, and flight connections back to Vermont, so I’ll be preparing posts on the SIA conference experience – tours and beautiful Colorado pictures included.