‘At This Place in History,’ we’re at the Thwing Mill in Barre with Public Programs Manager Amanda Gustin from the Vermont Historical Society.
“So this is one of my favorite buildings in Barre. If you drive down North Street, you’ve probably passed this building 100 times,” said Gustin. “This is a mill. It’s a gristmill. It was originally used to grind down wheat or corn into meal or flour into cornmeal.”
“As you can see up on the top of the building, this was built in 1844. It’s called the Thwing Mill after a guy named Joshua Thwing. And this is sort of a story to tell about the early industrial base of Barre, and how Barre became a thriving community in the first part of the 19th century,” added Gustin.
“Joshua Thwing was born in 1784 in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, and with his family, he moved to Vermont when he was 11 years old in 1795. And the Thwing family settled roughly in this area, in the north Barre area,” said Gustin.
“Joshua was one of those sort of really ambitious, really, really sharp people who really saw this new state of Vermont as a huge opportunity to make a name for himself and to build things. So he apprenticed himself to a machinist and a blacksmith. He learned the engineering trade; he learned math, he learned design, he learned how to make things with his hands. In 1805, he’s just 21-years-old, but he’s saved up enough money to buy a sawmill right near here roughly on the same site here in north Barre. And that was the start of it,” said Gustin.
“Over the next couple of decades, he built up a whole industrial complex in this part of north Barre, built the sawmill right near there. He builds the first iron foundry in the state of Vermont. So soon he is making lumber, he is making iron products of all kinds and shapes, and that starts to get more and more specialized. He makes some early, early tools for the granite industry, among other things he makes sort of custom pieces for homes, a little bit of everything,” said Gustin.
“This all continues over decades until 1844 when he built this mill here. This is just a stunning architectural building on the outside and on the inside. You can see it’s brick. It’s highlighted with Barre granite. All of those foundation pieces are Barre granite because, of course, you got two huge millstones grinding flour between it, it creates a lot of vibrations, it creates a lot of weight,” said Gustin. “So there’s a lot going on in this building and the granite helps the building be especially stable for all this movement and this vibration.”
“This mill sort of helps inaugurate more business for him because he says ‘You know what, this mill is so great. It can be replicated in other parts.’ So he makes the iron parts for the interior of the mill out of his own foundry. Then he has a team of engineers and architects and designers that he will send and supervise and design mills for you,” said Gustin.
“This is sort of an archetype mill for the Northeast. He goes all over the northeast and he builds mills in a lot of other places, taking advantage of this industrial revolution that’s going on in America at the time. And he is such a big deal in this part of Barre. This whole complex, the sawmill foundry, the mill and their home across the street. On a lot of early maps that Barre is labeled ‘Thwing-Ville,'” said Gustin.
‘At This Place in History.’