Ipswich Mills and Brown Stocking Mills Historic Districts

The houses in this aerial photograph were built in the early 1900’s by the Ipswich Mills Company to house the workers of their mill, located just east of this area. The company was the largest employer in town and the largest producer of stockings in the world. Six parallel streets, 1st Street to 6th Street plus Estes and Kimball Streets were laid out by the Ipswich Mills Company to provide housing for their workers, many of whom were Polish. This area became known as “Pole Alley”.

Ipswich Mills National Register Historic District

ipswich_mills_mapThe Ipswich Mills Historic District is the community in Ipswich MA west of EBSCO Publishing bordered by Union St., the MBTA commuter rail tracks and the Ipswich River. The former woolen and stocking mill buildings more recently housed the Sylvania fluorescent lighting plant, and are where in 1942 Sylvania designed and assembled the proximity fuse for WWII bombs. The buildings now are the home of EBSCO Publishing.

Lace and stocking-making developed as a home industry in Ipswich after the first stocking machine was smuggled from England to Ipswich in 1822. In 1868, Amos A. Lawrence established the original Ipswich Hosiery Mills in the old stone mill on County Street. By the turn of the 20th century the company had moved to the Ipswich Mills location and had become the largest stocking mill in the country. Tanning, shoe making and machine knitting industries also started up, and immigrants from England, Ireland, Canada, Poland and Greece arrived in Ipswich to work in the mills. Many of their descendants still live in Ipswich, contributing to its diverse cultural heritage.

At various stages the Company hired English, Polish, Greek, Canadian, and Irish workers, making the Alley a very diverse ethnic area. In order to afford the houses, workers brought in boarders. One account indicates that there were as many as four to a room in these two-bedroom houses. As late as 1917, 75% of the Ipswich Mills workers were women and although the town directories list the men and their occupations, it can be assumed that many of these women were working in the Ipswich Mills. When the Ipswich Mills Company closed in 1928 the houses were sold for as little as $2000, often to the Polish residents who had worked in the mills. Most of the houses remain single-family residences today. (reference MACRIS listing by the Ipswich Historical Commission, 1990).

brown-mills-district
Brownville Historic District

Brownville Historic District

The Brown Stocking Mill Historic District is across Topsfield Road and includes mills and worker housing dating from 1906 at the Brown Stocking Mill on Brownville Ave. established by Harry Brown. The area is defined as 24—32 Broadway Avenue, 3—41 Brownville Avenue, 10 Burleigh Avenue, 3—5 Burleigh Place, and 35—47 Topsfield Road.

At the turn of the 20th century, Harry Brown established a hosiery mill called the Brown Stocking Mill Co. atop the hill northeast of the center of Ipswich. In the first optimistic flush of his enterprise (which briefly employed 800 operatives), Brown laid out Brownsville Ave. just south of his factory and built 22 houses, extending west from the factory down the slope of Brownsville Ave. to Topsfield. The hosiery mill soon failed, but the houses remain.’ All are front-gabled with front porches, and vary from 1 to 2 1/2 stories in height.

Later History

  • The use of the facility from 1910 to 1954 needs research.
  • McMillan Radiation Labs Inc. operated out of the facility from 1954 until its dissolution in January 1979.
  • Paul Beswick founded Beswick Engineering in 1963 in Beverly, MA, and in 1972 moved operations to the Brownville facility. They moved from the Ipswich location in 1996 to a modern facility in Greenland, New Hampshire.
  •  In 1976, Rich and Steve Pierce opened a woodworking plant in the former Brown’s Mill building and started The Pierce Company. After Steve left, Rich started making custom furniture and remained at the Brown’s Mill building until 1999 when he moved into the closed Ebinger Brothers leather company building on Peatfield Street. They moved from there to Mitchell Rd. and are no longer in business.

 

National Register

Due to their historic nature, the two Ipswich Mills and Brown Mills neighborhoods were each eligible for designation as a National Historic District, an area or property associated with events or developments of significance to the history of their community or which have significant architectural history or engineering achievements.

Both districts were added to the National Park Services Registry of Historic Places in August of 1996 after being documented by a professional preservation consultant. That same year EBSCO Publishing moved into the old Ipswich Woolen Mills buildings. The Riverside Building built in 1868 is part of the EBSCO facility and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Owners of properties listed in the National Register may be eligible for a 20% investment tax credit for the rehabilitation of income-producing commercial, industrial, or rental residential buildings. Properties must be rehabilitated according to standards set by the Secretary of the Interior.

Women working in the Ipswich Hosery mill

Women working in the Boston location of Ipswich Hosiery

Mill housing on Brownville Avenue in Ipswich

Mill housing on Brownville Avenue in Ipswich

Brown Stocking Mill Historic District in Ipswich MAIn 1913, a strike by non English-speaking workers demanding a 20 percent wage increase at the Ipswich Hosiery Mills plant was organized by members of the local Industrial Workers of the World. There was considerable agitation, and agitated residents at a large meeting at town hall declared “We have got to meet force with force.” On June 19, police fired into a crowd of protesting immigrant workers just after the non-striking English-speaking workers had left the plant.

A young Greek woman named Nicholetta Paudelopoulou was shot in the head and killed by police as she left work in Brown’s Essex Mill, and seven persons were injured, including several policemen hit by flying bottles and debris tossed by the demonstrators. Fifteen persons, including the local leaders of the I.W.W. were taken into custody. Nicholetta was buried at the Immigrant Cemetery, part of the Highland Cemetery Annex on Fowler’s Lane, where there are over 300 immigrant graves, many unmarked.

Due to their historic nature, the two Ipswich neighborhoods were each eligible for designation as a National Historic District, an area or property associated with events or developments of significance to the history of their community or which have significant architectural history or engineering achievements.

Owners of properties listed in the National Register may be eligible for a 20% investment tax credit for the rehabilitation of income-producing commercial, industrial, or rental residential buildings. Properties must be rehabilitated according to standards set by the Secretary of the Interior.

classrooms at Ipswich Mills

Immigrants and children at classes in Ipswich Mill

BrownStocking

The Brown Stocking Mill was near the intersection of Mt. Pleasant Ave with Brownville Ave. A development known as “New Mill Place” is now at that location.

Brown Stocking Company

Essex Hosiery Company sale

Auction of the Essex Hosiery Company (former Brown Hosiery Company) on Brownville Ave.

 

 

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