Last week I spent a day in the archives of the National Museum of American History. During one of my deep Google searches for information on Forest Mills, one of the woolen mills served by the Bridgton & Saco River RR, I came upon a PDF list mentioning both the Forest and Pondicherry Mills within one of the holdings.
After a few starts and stops, I finally reached out to the museum to set up an appointment to visit and access the Lockwood Greene Collection, of which drawings of the Bridgton mills are included. Per the Smithsonian’s web site, the Lockwood Greene Company, which moved their headquarters from Boston to South Carolina in the 1960’s, was, at the time, specialists in mill design and renovation. They were some of the first industrial designers, and were well sought after. The company expanded and became renowned for many aspects of industrial and and architectural design, and operates today as a subsidiary of the CH2M Hill Company.
My journey to the museum started with a brief ride on the local light rail to catch the MARC train from Baltimore’s Penn Station down to Washington DC’s Union Station. Although it was misting, I enjoyed the 30 minute walk to the museum. I arrived approximately 30 minutes after the museum opened and proceeded to wait in line to enter the building. After completing the required paperwork and watching a brief video on the proper handling of archive materials and data usage, I was led to a set of three tables which functioned as my desk.
Shortly thereafter, three large folders were brought to me on a flatbed dolly and it was time to carefully flip through the drawings, many of which were E and F size sheets, hand drawn on linen. Having spent time reviewing drawings on various media, linen is by far my favorite. The drawings for the Forest and Pondicherry mills were still crisp and clean and, aside from a crease or two caused by folding and some dirt from handling, there wasn’t a tear or obliterated dimension, which is much more than I can say for some of the drawings on kraft-style paper in the collection.
Although the hope was to find a complete set of mill foundation or elevation drawings, this was not to be had. The collection included drawings for the improvements performed on the mills in 1899 (Pondicherry) and 1901 (Forest), which were the addition of the boiler houses. These drawing were quite complete and, although they were not drawings of the complete mills, do provide scale for the rest of the structures via other drawings and images within my collection. I will spend the next week or so cataloging the data I recorded during my visit and incorporating it into my other mill data.
The Spartanburg library of South Carolina also received a donation of Lockwood Greene drawings from CH2M Hill and I eagerly await their positing of an inventory to find out if other Bridgton mill drawings might exist. In the meantime, I look forward using the acquired information to model these structures as near to full size as I can manage, as they were important pieces of Bridgton’s economy and the B&SR’s livelihood as importers and exporters of freight.