Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

Category: Postcards

POWERING MANUFACTURING

At the Slater Mill ...

At the Slater Mill …

The modest Blackstone River flows through Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where it powered the birth of America’s industrial revolution.

The stream reaches to Worcester, Massachusetts, the second-largest city in New England, and once ran many factories along its way.

My fondness for old mills, by the way, did prompt a novel, Big Inca.

Just upstream ...

Just upstream …

 

Viewed from inside the Slater Mill ...

Viewed from inside the Slater Mill …

 

SPIRE OF INSPIRATION

Old North Church, in Boston's North End.

Old North Church, in Boston’s North End.

Lanterns in the spire of North Church signaled directions to Paul Revere and other riders at the outbreak of the American Revolution. The race to Lexington and Concord was on.

Boston is a rich and varied destination – the Hub of New England, or the Universe, as they used to say. Living a little more than an hour to the north, we’re well within its orb.

 

STANDING BESIDE THE PROUD MERRIMACK

The clock tower of the Ayer Mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts, overlooks the Merrimack River on the other side of the wing to the left. It's an impressive sight.

The clock tower of the Ayer Mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts, overlooks the Merrimack River on the other side of the wing to the left. It’s an impressive sight.

While water-powered mills sprang up all across New England, thanks to its abundance of falling waters, the riverbanks of some locations became jammed with factories that employed thousands. The Merrimack River, for instance, had major industrial clusters at Manchester and Nashua, New Hampshire, and Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts, all relying on the use and reuse of the same water carefully shepherded downstream.

Many of those landmark buildings have been lost over time – fire, neglect, and urban renewal have taken their toll – but those that remain can be truly impressive, especially now that they’re being repurposed and renovated into charming, flexible centers of entrepreneurial innovation and center-city living.

Lawrence, with what was once the biggest dam in the world, is a prime example.

Hard as it is to imagine, this group of mills was once dwarfed by those on the other side of the Merrimack River as it rolled through Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Hard as it is to imagine, this group of mills was once dwarfed by those on the other side of the Merrimack River as it rolled through Lawrence, Massachusetts.

HIGH VICTORIAN

Strolling through the neighborhood.

Strolling through the neighborhood.

Boston’s Back Bay boulevards reflect the rising wealth of the city in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Boston is a rich and varied destination – the Hub of New England, or the Universe, as they used to say. Living a little more than an hour to the north, we’re well within its orb.

Boulevards lined with housing like this.

Boulevards lined with housing like this.

 

IN A WHIMSICAL VEIN

Atop Fanueil Hall.

Atop Fanueil Hall.

The cricket design of the weather vane atop Faneuil Hall always delights me. Or, as I long wondered from the ground, could it be a grasshopper?

Whichever, the craftsman and the client both demonstrate a lasting sense of delight in the realms of nature. Turns out to be a cricket after all, crafted in 1742 by Deacon Shem Drowne, perhaps inspired by similar weather vanes on London’s Royal Exchange building. The cricket, by the way, is the only part of the historic building to remain unchanged from the 1742 original. A 1761 fire gutted merchant Peter Faneuil’s original structure, and in 1805 architect Charles Bulfinch designed additions that doubled the width and length of the building while keeping the basic style to produce what we see today.

Boston is a rich and varied destination – the Hub of New England, or the Universe, as they used to say. Living a little more than an hour to the north, we’re well within its orb.

THE ENERGY IN THE MILL GOES ROUND AND ROUND

Uniform gears were in their own right a technological industrial advance.

Uniform gears were in their own right a technological industrial advance.

 

Much of the energy was transmitted overhead.

Much of the energy was transmitted overhead.

 

Energy transferred from running water powered New England manufacturing via arrangements of pulleys, shafts, gears, and leather belts, especially.

Leather, flexible as it was, could be prone to breaking, and so special techniques for splicing and connecting the strips into loops developed over the years.

When everything was running, by the way, the interior of a mill could be surprisingly noisy. The whole building would shake.

Leather belts were an essential part of the operation.

Leather belts were an essential part of the enterprise.

 

Here's how it could look in operation, as seen in the Wilkinson Mill, Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Here’s how it could look in operation, as seen in the Wilkinson Mill, Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

 

The metal hooks could be quite varied, depending on their intended application.

The metal hooks could be quite varied, depending on their intended application.

OF COURSE IT’S A CITY

A moment at the reflecting pool in Copley Square in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood.

A moment at the reflecting pool in Copley Square in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.

They’re the national bird of many cities.

Boston is a rich and varied destination – the Hub of New England, or the Universe, as they used to say. Living a little more than an hour to the north, we’re well within its orb.

 

REST IN THE AGES

Tucked away in a corner of the park, this gate.

Tucked away in a corner of the park, this gate.

The burial ground in Boston Common is the resting place of early patriots, among them the composer William Billings – the latter, by assumption rather than documentation. Historians will note that the headstones in the city’s oldest graveyards no longer stand over their intended bodies, but were moved around by convenience.

Boston is a rich and varied destination – the Hub of New England, or the Universe, as they used to say. Living a little more than an hour to the north, we’re well within its orb.

It's a classic New England scene, in cities, towns, and isolated countryside.

It’s a classic New England scene, in cities, towns, and isolated countryside.

 

HOME TO ENLIGHTENMENT STYLE

A prime location in the big city.

A prime location in the big city.

Beacon Hill’s narrow streets and closely set homes invite pedestrians to enter a timeless order and grace. It’s hard for us not to imagine living here early in the 19th century as American ideas took hold.

Boston is a rich and varied destination – the Hub of New England, or the Universe, as they used to say. Living a little more than an hour to the north, we’re well within its orb.

A quiet break in a crowded neighborhood.

A quiet break in a crowded neighborhood.

 

Beacon Hill is, after all, hilly.

Beacon Hill is, after all, hilly.

UNDER THE SEA

 

Looking at you, too ...

Looking at you, too …

The big tank at the New England Aquarium provides close-up views of oceanic stars.

Boston is a rich and varied destination – the Hub of New England, or the Universe, as they used to say. Living a little more than an hour to the north, we’re well within its orb.

Somehow, I'm reminded of a butterfly.

Somehow, I’m reminded of a butterfly.