The Mill Returns Home
The machines are returning home to the factory floor where the Colony family ran them for nearly five decades. Read more to learn about this massive undertaking!
The Transporting of Mill No. 6 Machines
The machines we use to create our woolen-spun yarn spent the last 50 years down the road from their original location. Over the past 12 months, a massive effort was put into place to bring them back from Skatutakee Rd. to join the rest of Harrisville Designs departments on Mill Alley in the center of the village. While it didn’t make sense financially, as it had no real impact on sales or profits, having everyone all under one roof, switching to renewable energy, and restoring the buildings back to their original historic purpose were all at the heart of the initiative.
But what was the reason the machines needed to be moved back in the first place?
After Cheshire Mills closed its doors in 1970, John (Chick) Colony re-engaged the family’s - and community’s - textile knowledge as Harrisville Designs in 1971. By this time, the mill buildings were occupied by another non-textile manufacturing company. We needed to find a new space for our spinning machines. In an effort to continue yarn production within the village, we built a new building at 22 Skatutakee Road. The original Cheshire Mills machines were then moved to the new facility about 0.7 miles down the road.
Over the years, Harrisville Designs expanded a portion of the woodshop, Friendly Loom production, finishing and skeining operations within the mill buildings. The spinning operation remained down the road; however, keeping the tradition of textile production in the mill buildings has always been core to Historic Harrisville’s mission. Moving the machines back would strengthen HD’s commitment to it.
The past couple of years yielded a moment to shift focus to internal projects. After 50 years of spinning down the road, it was time to put together a plan and execute this gargantuan task.
EMBARKING ON THE MOVE
First, the Friendly Loom production teams needed to be moved from the 1st to 2nd floor of Mill No. 6, which was built in 1924. This included relocating the shipping department. New floors were put into the 2nd floor area along with new insulation in the walls and floors. Harrisville Designs also used this as an opportunity to modernize our entire fulfillment process.
Next, planning the layout of the machines began, taking into consideration what would be the optimal flow for production. A new office was built for the spinning department manager on the old "overseers" model.
To prepare the spinning mill space for the machines, the floors were reconditioned by removing old oil and dirt.
Uprooting the machines from their previous location and moving them up the road into Mill No. 6 took 3 weeks. It also involved bringing three-phase power from Main Street all the way down Mill Alley to the end of Mill No. 6. This project required digging, pounding ledge, trenching, and working closely with our electricians.
A rigging company from Maine pulled off the move without a hitch. They worked efficiently, safely and carefully, which was a great relief. Our Card Room crew, Rick and Jimmy, were also extremely helpful in getting everything into place!
During this project, we learned that three-phase power is the ideal approach to harnessing solar energy. This kicked off a separate project, a long desired one, to install a solar array on Mill No. 6. It was completed and switched on in May 2022.
The Homecoming of Harrisville Designs
While the machines are what make our company hum, ensuring a positive working environment that enhances the well-being of our employees day-to-day experiences was also at the core of the decision to move. Teams throughout Mill No. 6 now have industrial-sized windows overlooking the cupula, forests, village, river, and waterfall. Additionally, they provide natural lighting throughout the day, which was lacking in the many of the former spaces.
Doing our part to support our local community and by extension reducing our global environmental footprint with renewables has strengthened not only our small, family-owned business model, but our commitment to preserving Harrisville. We look forward to continuing that mission as we move forward.
We thank you for your patience throughout the pandemic and this move. We can now gratefully make this announcement: at long last, the machines have returned, and we as a company celebrate their homecoming.