Rockville Heritage Trail

MAP-Rockville_Heritage_Trail.pdf

Vernon Parks and Recreation Department, Bruce Dinnie, Director
bdinnie@vernon-ct.gov
860/870-3520

Park & Recreation Office: Monday through Friday; 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.


Mission Statement

The Vernon Parks and Recreation Department is committed to the effective management of its parks and other facilities in which to provide positive leisure opportunities.  These opportunities benefit the individual, the economy, environment and the entire community of Vernon.

The Vernon Parks and Recreation Department is proud to be able to provide a variety of safe accessible, physically attractive and enjoyable, leisure time facilities and activities for Vernon residents of all ages.  You are invited to enrich your recreational opportunities in your leisure time through participation in the Vernon Parks and Recreation Department.

"THE BENEFITS ARE ENDLESS!"


  Please wait for the map below to load until you see blue pins   
  Then, you can click on the pins to learn about each location of the Rockville Heritage Trail! 

 



  

 


View Rockville Heritage Trail in a larger map

 

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1

Saxony Mill

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2

Hockanum Mill (West Main by mills)

3 Springville Mill ( in front of Springville Mill)
4

Florence Mill (West Main St, by driveway)

5 Gene Pitney (By VRABE)

6 American Mill (In front of Ano-Coil on East Main St.)
7 Fitch Mill, Belding Silk Mill, Dart's Stone Mill

 

 


1
Saxony Mill Historic site

This site is one of the earliest mill sites on the Hockanum River. It was first occupied by a gristmill in the 1700s and later by a wool carding mill in 1822. In 1836 Saxony Mill was constructed on the site to manufacture satinet. Mill ownership changed several times through the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was last owned by Plastifoam Corporation. The mill burned to the ground in a spectacular fire in July 1994 The site is now owned by the Town of Vernon. The building was a significant example of wood framed construction and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


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2
Hockanum Mill

The Hockanum Mill was first constructed in 1814 on a two-acre site here on the Hockanum River.
It is the only remaining wood-framed mill structure in Rockville. Called the Bingham & Nash Mill, it was one of the earliest Rockville mills to produce satinet, a type of cloth made with cotton warp and woolen filling.

In 1821, the mill was sold and the new owners enlarged the mill by building a mirror image of the first structure. The buildings became known as the Twin Mills. Twenty-eight years later, a new and larger mill was built on the site. A great fire destroyed the mill in 1854, but it was subsequently rebuilt. The satinet industry began to decline over the next decade. In 1869, George Maxwell took over as president of the mill, and successfully converted production to a higher-quality worsted cloth suitable for men’s wear. The mill was again profitable and employed about 100 workers.

 

East view of mill showing the head race leading to the mill wheel. The waterway is no longer visible.
Photo undated.

The high quality of the cloth produced in the Rockville Mills became legendary. The cloth for the inaugural suit worn by President William McKinley in 1897 was manufactured in the Hockanum Mill. George Sykes was president of the mill during this successful era of wool manufacturing in Rockville. In 1906, the Hockanum Mill merged with three other Rockville mills to form a holding corporation named the Hockanum Mills Company. The company was sold to M.T. Stevens & Company in 1934. It survived the World War II era mainly through the production of cloth for military uniforms. The development of synthetics eventually led to the demise of the woolen industry in Rockville. The M.T. Stevens Company shut down its Rockville mills in 1951, ending the ‘glory era’ of Rockville as the producer of high-grade woolens. The empty mill building was later purchased and converted to other uses.

 

 

 

 

 

Hockanum Mill workers gathered for
a company photo, circa 1930s.

 

 

Hockanum Manufacturing Company postcard,
circa 1889, depicting the new brick weaving & dressing mill on the left and office on far right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aerial view of the mill complex, photo undated.

 

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3
Springville Mill

The Springville Mill was originally the site of the 1821 Grant & McKinney Mill, a small two-story wood-framed building that manufactured satinet. In 1833 the mill was purchased by four partners who organized the Springville Manufacturing Company. One of the partners, Chauncey Winchell, became president. He held that office for fifty-two years. His home still stands at the corner of West Main Street and Orchard Street.

 

Women mill workers, mill & date unidentified

Even though the Springville Mill was one of the smallest satinet mills, it was the most profitable. It was the only satinet mill to survive beyond the depression of 1873. It employed about the same number of women as men at this time. The use of the power loom in the industry made possible the employment of women weavers.

 

Mill building, photo undated. Note the dirt road and picket fence in the foreground.

In 1886, George Maxwell and George Sykes purchased the Springville Manufacturing Company and built a large brick building that created new life for the mill. They converted the mill to the manufacture of fine worsted wool. The new four-story brick mill was considered a model manufacturing plant for its time, with large windows for better ventilation, gas and electric lighting, elevators, automatic sprinklers in every room, and iron fire escapes reaching from the roof to the ground.

 

Springville Mill weave room, photo undated, courtesy of The American Textile History Museum, Lowell, MA.

By 1906, textile manufacturing in Rockville had reached its zenith. The Springville Manufacturing Company merged with three other mill companies to form the Hockanum Company Mills holding company. The four mills employed 3400 workers and produced 1,500,000 yards of cloth annually. They were considered the leading manufacturer of fine woolens in the country. The Hockanum and Springville mills had the honor of producing the fabric for the inauguration suits of Presidents William McKinley, Benjamin Harrison and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The mill ceased woolen manufacturing in 1951. Although the 1886 structure has been converted to apartments, its historic architecture has been preserved.

 

Postcard depiction of Springville Manufacturing Company, view from the rear of mill complex.

 

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4
Florence Mill

The original mill on this site was constructed in 1831. The framing from the old Vernon meetinghouse was used for part of the building. The structure was replaced in 1847 by Colonel Francis McLean, who named it the “Frank Mill”. The mill produced cassimere, an all wool cloth that was used primarily for men’s suits.

 

A rare 1868 stereoscopic slide with view of the Florence Mill carding room in the period just prior to failure.

A catastrophic mill fire in 1853 caused the company to go into financial collapse. Nathanial O. Kellogg purchased the factory remains plus seven acres of land, and organized a new company. By 1860, the company was successfully producing cassimere as well as doeskin, a woolen cloth used for dress uniforms of British naval officers. In 1864, the company expanded operations and erected a new mill. This new building was in the Second Empire style and was noted to be the “finest mill-edifice in Rockville”.

White, Corbin & Company Envelope Manufacturing trading card, circa 1870.

The mill profited significantly from the Civil War. When the war ended and the wool products were no longer needed for military uniforms, the business failed. The mill was foreclosed in 1869. E.N. Kellogg & Company of Hartford purchased the mill, but it was not successful and the woolen mill closed in 1881. Cyrus White and Lewis Corbin then took over the building to make envelopes, a new product for this time. The successful company employed over 100 people and produced approximately one million envelopes a day, six days a week. In 1898, the company consolidated with other envelope companies to form the U.S. Envelope Company. By 1954 the plant was producing 3 million envelopes a day and employed 225 people.

In the 1970s, the envelope company closed. The building was then converted to apartments, giving new life to this beautifully built 1864 mill structure. The dedication of the conversion was held in 1978, and was attended by Governor Ella Grasso.

The Florence Mill, built in 1864 to replace an earlier building, manufactured wool cloth.

 

Postcard depiction of the U.S. Envelope Company, back-side postmark dated 1910, stamped with one-cent postage.

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Click to enlarge picture - map of Hockanum River through the Village of Rockville

5
Gene Francis Pitney
The “Rockville Rocket”

Gene Pitney was born in Hartford on February 17, 1940 and was raised here in Rockville. Nicknamed the “Rockville Rocket”, his dramatic tenor voice was considered to be one of the most remarkable voices of the sixties era. He enjoyed worldwide success following hit songs like “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, “Only Love Can Break A Heart”, “24 Hours from Tulsa”, “I’m Gonna Be Strong”, and “Town Without Pity”.

Gene Pitney fan club card, front side

Pitney’s first venture into music was with a band he formed at Rockville High School in the late fifties called Gene Pitney & The Genials. His first recordings in 1958 as part of a duo called Jamie and Jane, followed by a single for Blaze Records under the stage name of Billy Bryan, were unsuccessful. He finally decided that his own real name was the way he really wanted to be known in the music business. His first hit, “I Wanna Love My Life Away”, was recorded in late 1960. It was considered a pioneering feat of record production because he not only multi-tracked his vocals, but overdubbed many of the instruments as well.

Gene with Ginny Arnell as duo Jamie and Jane, 1958

 

Gene Pitney was a gifted songwriter as well, penning hits like “Hello Mary Lou”, “He’s A Rebel”, and “Rubber Ball”. He broke music barriers in 1965 by recording two successful albums with country legend George Jones. His last top-40s hit was “She’s a Heartbreaker” in 1968. In 1989 he did a duet with singer Marc Almond, formerly of the British group “Soft Cell”. It became his first #1 hit in England, and also went to #1 in other European countries.

 

In later years, Pitney toured both in the U.S. and abroad to many sellout audiences, including concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Bushnell in Hartford, and the Oakdale in Wallingford. In 2001, one of his concerts was filmed at Foxwoods Casino here in Connecticut and was aired on PBS.

Tour publicity photo, 1987

 

In 2002, Gene Pitney became the first Connecticut musician and recording artist to be inducted into the National Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Gene married his high school sweetheart Lynne Gayton in 1967 and they have raised three sons, Todd, Christopher and David. In later years, Gene resided in Somers, Connecticut. He passed away at the age of 66 in Cardiff, Wales on April 5, 2006 while on tour. Gene is buried in Somers Center Cemetery. A memorial plaque for Gene was dedicated and installed in the Vernon Town Hall lobby in 2007. 

                       

        Lynne & Gene in 2004;                       Gene & Lynne’s wedding, near San Remo, Italy, January 28, 1967;

Gene Pitney was once asked how he would like to be best remembered. He replied that it wasn’t the monetary or fame part of it that meant as much to him as knowing that, through his recordings and performances, in some way he was able to touch those who heard or saw him perform.

Gene’s “Return to Connecticut” Oakdale Theater performance on July 8, 1987 in Wallingford, CT

 

Gene Pitney was a hometown hero who made his lasting mark here and all over the world.

Publicity photo, 1995 Tour

 


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6
American Mill

 

The American Mill was originally the site of a saw and grist mill owned by Rufus West and Horace Vinton. In 1846, Phineas Talcott purchased the site, and in 1847 he and Nelson Kingsbury organized the American Mills Company and constructed a new mill. By this time the success of the Rockville textile factories was recognized and the American Mill Company was one of the first to draw investors outside of the local area.

 

The new mill was an imposing six-story structure, 200 feet by 45 feet. The first two stories were stone, and the upper three stories and attic were wood-framed with Greek Revival details and a handsome bell tower. The timber for the mill came from Allegheny County in western New York where Phineas Talcott’s son, Frederick, had a lumber mill. The lumber was brought to the school yard on School Street where it was framed and set up in the presence of many on-lookers.

American Mill dressing room, photo undated.

 The American Mill manufactured primarily cassimere, a high quality wool product. The manufacturing process needed superior looms and other technological changes that required a work force that was skilled in the trade. These tradesmen, many from foreign countries, came to Rockville and marked the beginning of the industrial age in Rockville.

American Mill Company dressing room workers.

 

The American Mill Company merged with the Hockanum Mills Company in 1918. The Company survived the difficult economic times of the 1920s and 1930s, and the woolen textile business continued to thrive in New England. However by the late 1940s, the competition from synthetic fabrics caused the demise of the woolen industry in the north. The mill closed in 1951.

Workers gathered at the lower mill entrance. Photo dates from the 1930s when it was common practice to take group photos of various departments.

In 1958 Ano-coil began a manufacturing operation unrelated to textiles in the two-story brick structure located at the rear of the American Mill site. In 1960, a dramatic fire consumed The wooden mill building. Ano-coil continues to operate on the site.

 

 

American Mill building ablaze, 1960.

 

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7
Fitch Mill, Belding Silk Mills & Dart’s Stone Mill

 

In the late 1700s, the terrain at this corner was a wilderness, with ancient hemlocks growing on steep ledges overhanging the river. The Hockanum River tumbled out of Snipsic Lake, and down a series of waterfalls that dropped a total of 254 feet as it passed through the village of Rockville. The three mills here were built at the steepest waterfall, a drop of 44 feet. The mill buildings now obstruct the sight of the waterfalls from this viewpoint, but further south on East Main Street the water can be seen cascading below Dart’s Stone Mill. 

 

Now and Then: Top photo - view of waterfall from the Anocoil site, with Fitch Mill above the fall to the left, dated 2006; above - early view of the same waterfall with heavy spray, photo undated.

The first building constructed on this corner site was one of the earliest paper mills in Connecticut, built in 1833 by Colonel Francis McLean. (McLean was a leading figure in the early industrial development of Rockville. In 1821, he had opened the first textile mill in Rockville, called the Rock Mill.) The paper mill made paper from rags, mostly for books and news journals. In the 1860s, the mill was demolished by a fire.

The construction of the manufacturing complex seen today at the intersection of Grove Street and Main Street is attributed to the grit and determination of Albert Dart, a local blacksmith who turned to mill construction. Dart’s ambitious and visionary plan was to build three mills for textile manufacturing that could take advantage of the largest potential power source in the village, the ravine and steep ledge with the 44-foot waterfall. He purchased the property in 1862 and subsequently spent seven years transforming its landscape, building the dams and erecting the buildings. To make the best use of a limited amount of land and maximize the available waterpower, he constructed a feeder canal with a short headrace to each of the three mills. The mills were built of sufficient size to employ about 100 workers each.


Samuel Fitch & Sons (Daniels Warehouse)

 

Fitch Mill, which stands at the crest of the Main Street hill, photo circa 1885.
Pictured in the carriage at left are Samuel Fitch and Spencer S. Fitch. 

 

The first of the three mill sites that Albert Dart constructed is the mill that is now known as Daniels Warehouse, fronting around the corner on East Main Street. Dart sold the mill site in June, 1864 to Julius Rich, who formed a new company, the Carlisle Company. The mill manufactured cotton sewing thread. The Carlisle mill failed in the financial panic of 1873. Samuel Fitch purchased the mill in 1874, and manufactured a fabric known as stockinet, a flexible cloth used to line rubber boots and raincoats. The company operated successfully through the end of the 19th century. The J.J. Regan Company then purchased the plant in 1899 and operated the Rockville Worsted Company, producing worsted wool fabric. Eventually, the mill was purchased by the Hockanum Mill Company, which succumbed to the demise of the textile industry in Rockville in 1951.

 


Belding Silk Mills

Albert Dart’s second mill project was the mill directly across Grove Street. In 1866 Dart sold this site to Ebenzer Kellogg Rose, who planned to manufacture silk thread. Dart constructed the mill in the Italianate style. By April, 1867 the first silk business in Rockville was operating. The Rose Silk Manufacturing Company failed one year later, succumbing to the business recession of that year. In 1870, the mill and machinery were purchased by the Belding Brothers Company for $41,000. The Belding brothers had grown a small house-to-house silk peddling enterprise in Michigan into a thriving silk business with factories in four cities, and sales offices across the country. The Belding mill in Rockville produced solely silk thread. In 1927, the mill was sold to the Keeneys of Somersville. In 1936 the mill was leased, and then later purchased, by the American Dyeing Corporation which ran a textile dyeing operation in the facility. Today the dyeing mill is known as Amerbelle Corporation and is the only textile-processing company still remaining in Rockville.

 


Dart’s Stone Mill

Dart’s Stone Mill, north west view of water emptying from the interior mill wheel out into the mill pond, photo undated.

Albert Dart’s third mill project was constructed of stone and became known as Dart’s Stone Mill. Built in 1868, it is an imposing structure that stands five stories high, with two 3-story wings, and looms over the village below. An enormous waterwheel 55 feet in diameter powered all three sections. It was said to be the largest in the country at the time, and provided 150 horsepower. Unfortunately Dart’s wonderful wheel cost $12,000 and forced him into bankruptcy. He withdrew from society, suffered ill health, and died in 1882. His mill was taken over by Cyrus White, and was occupied by the White Manufacturing Company in 1882, and later by the J. J. Regan Company. Today it is owned by Amerbelle. With the river spewing through a stone arch at its base, Dart’s factory has, through the years, provided one of Rockville’s most picturesque sights and has been a popular subject for artists and photographers. 

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