The Mills in Mansfield Hollow

Lost Mansfield > The Mills in Mansfield Hollow

LOST MANSFIELD # 8: THE MILLS IN MANSFIELD HOLLOW.

The village of Mansfield Hollow grew up around various mills powered by the swift-running waters of the Natchaug River. John Arnold had a grist mill there as early as 1728, and other water powered enterprises were added over the years, including a sawmill, a blacksmith shop with a trip hammer, an oil mill (for extracting linseed oil from flax seeds), and a fulling mill (for finishing homespun woolen cloth). Zephaniah, Barzillai, and Fearing Swift owned the mills in the later 1700s, leading to “Swift’s Hollow” becoming a common name for the site.

The original Mansfield Hollow mill buildings
This wooden mill complex was started in the 1830s and expanded over the years. Its multiple buildings housed a variety of enterprises, among them a silk mill, a spool-turning shop, a saw mill and a grist mill. Locally it became known as the “Railroad Building”, due to the number of interconnected buildings.
Original dam on the Natchaug River at Mansfield Hollow
This dam across the Natchaug River, along with an associated gate and sluiceway, provided the waterpower for operating the various mills in Mansfield Hollow.
The National Thread Company stone mill building
In 1882, the National Thread Company built this stone mill on the site of the former wooden mill complex. It was a manufacturer of cotton thread. George Kirby, a Providence jeweler, purchased the mill in 1902. His business manufactured eyeglasses frames and related accessories. Following his death in 1965, the mill was conveyed to the State of Connecticut and used by UConn as a storage facility for 30 years.

In the 1830s, Zalmon Storrs and his associates, Edmund Golding and Nathan Rixford, established a mill there to produce silk thread using innovative winding and doubling machinery. The Storrs-Golding-Rixford partnership was followed by a succession of owners, including the Paisley Silk and Thread Company, which added cotton thread to their output. The last owner was the National Thread Company which demolished the wooden mill complex and, in 1882, built the still standing stone mill on its site.

The Kirby Mill present day
The Kirby Mill today. Sam and Michelle Shifrin acquired the Kirby mill in 1997 and renovated it for commercial office space and light industry.
Mansfield Hollow flood control dam and original Natchaug River Dam present day
The mill dam today, with the Mansfield Hollow Flood Control Dam in the background. The Shifrins have developed and installed an innovative hydro-power facility at the site that produces enough renewable energy to power the mill and approximately 250 homes in the area.

This series is made possible by a Capacity Building Grant from The Last Green Valley, Inc.

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