In 1792 Dr. John Manning erected a factory at the corner of South Main and Market Streets beside the Choate Bridge, and began the manufacture of coarse cloths and blankets in 1794. The completed building was two stories high, 105 feet long and 32 feet wide. On the roof squatted a great octagonal tower, inside of which were the arms and sails of a horizontal windmill by which it was proposed to operate the machinery.
The design and location at the bottom of the hill were inefficient, and if it ever did operate, the rotating assembly would surely have been noisy. The business quickly proved unprofitable and was given up in 1800. Dr. Manning’s ambitious enterprise was eventually reduced to a row of mundane stores and offices known as the Coburn Block. When the old building burned to the ground in 1869, it was quickly replaced by the present Caldwell Block.
The windmill sketch was by 12-year-old Mary Jane Derby of Salem. Half a century later she drew the illustration of the Coburn block (minus the windmill), which was reproduced on the cover of the 1966 Annual Report.
In February of 1824, Dr. Manning was given to build a dam at Willowdale in order to provide water power for a mill, but it was not built until 1829. This dam was said to be about 6’ tall in a 1918 report and is still standing today. Foote Brothers Canoe Rentals was established here in 1955 and is still in operation today with second and third generation family members operating the business.The original sawmill was converted after five years into a Textile Mill. It produced hosiery as well as woolen goods and was in operation until a fire in January of 1884 destroyed it. The foundation can still be seen today. A long sluice-way was built here and runs parallel with the river, directing the water flow under the mill.
- Text from “The Industrial History of the Ipswich River.” by John Stump and Alan Pearsall)
- Photo by Edward L. Darling, from the collection of William J. Barton.
The following story was written by Kate Thompson, one of the founding members of the Ipswich Historical Commission in 1964.