Moore and Thompson Paper Mill Complex
National Register Nomination Information:
The former Moore and Thompson Paper Mill complex comprises a total of eighteen buildings located next to the Bellows Falls power canal below the Great Falls of the Connecticut River. The lower group of predominantly multi-story, gable-roofed, attached brick buildings was constructed mostly in 1880-81 while an upper pair of single-story, flat-roofed factory buildings was erected in 1924-25. Various alterations have been made to the buildings, reflecting changes in mill operations through its eighty-year history of paper production. Although converted briefly in the 1970s to furniture manufacturing. the complex retains much of its historic integrity and now (1983) awaits rehabilitation for adaptive uses.
The Moore and Thompson mill complex occupies a sloping site at the south end of the so-called "Island," an area located east of the Bellows Falls business district between the Great Falls of the Connecticut River and the canal built originally to by-pass the falls (see the National Register nomination for the Bellows Falls Downtown Historic District, entered in the National Register on August 16, 1982). A driveway along the canal's east side leads downhill from Bridge Street to the lower group of fifteen numbered buildings - Nos. 1-12, 8-A, 10-A, and 11-A - that contain about 70,000 square feet of floor area. Without exception, these buildings are attached to one another and descend in irregular steps the downward slope to the bank of the Connecticut River. The principal buildings - Nos. 1,2,5,7,8,11 and possibly part of 4 - were constructed in 1880-81: the various smaller buildings were added during succeeding decades until 1917.
The nineteenth century group stands immediately northeast of the New England Power Company's hydroelectric generating station that now terminates the south end of the canal. The Moore and Thompson mill was originally powered by water from the canal, whose East Branch flowed under Buildings No. 1, 2, and 3 with a diversion under No. 7 and as a 1916 plan suggests, under other buildings as well. The large brick arches spanning the intake and discharge remain visible (although infilled) on the south elevations of Nos. 1 and 11, respectively; similar arches exist in the basements of Nos. 1 and 7, marking the diversion to two water turbines in pits under the latter building.
A two-track railroad siding curves along a shelf cut into the slope beside the west perimeter of the buildings, allowing freight service to the complex and rail access to an adjacent building. Above the siding on a low knoll stands the upper group of twentieth century buildings (Nos. 13-15) oriented toward Bridge Street on the northwest, and connected to the lower group by a steel-framed utility bridge. The principal upper buildings, Nos. 13 and 14, are single-story, flat-roofed, brick and steel-framed structures that cover about 30,000 square feet. These buildings were erected in 1924-25 by a subsequent owner of the Moore and Thompson mill, the Hudson Bag Company, for the manufacture of paper bags.
Paper production at the Moore and Thompson complex continued until the 1960s; during the 1970s, the buildings were adapted to furniture manufacturing that continued until 1981. Although having lost their originally intended functions, the buildings retain their essential architectural integrity. Various alterations have been made sporadically throughout the history of the complex, involving especially door and window openings and roof sheathings. While some of these alterations detract from the complex's architectural character, they appear generally reversible.
Building No. 1:
Several of Building No. 1's openings have been altered by enlargement or infilling. A broad semicircular brick arch - constructed of six header courses - appears in the south basement wall; now infilled with brick except for a central window, the arch formerly spanned the water intake for the East Branch of the power canal. On the originally seven-bay west facade, the northernmost window has been replaced by a large overhead door sheltered by a gabled wood canopy; this doorway provides freight access to the railroad siding in front of the building. The central (pedestrian) entrance has also been enlarged into a double-leaf doorway sheltered by a similar canopy.
Other alterations of Building No. 1 include a thick concrete berm placed along the west facade's foundation. On the south elevation's first story, an enclosed flush-boarded, steel-underframed loading shed has been added to serve the attached Building No . 6; the 35-foot by 8-foot shed extends over the former water intake.
Building No. 2:
The north gable peak of No. 2 displays the cornice and window treatment common to other gable ends in the complex except that one opening has been converted to a door leading on to the roof of attached Building No. 3. The east slope of No. 2's roof bears a two-tiered shed dormer and has been recently sheathed with aluminum; prior to their removal in the late 1950's, boiler exhaust pipes emerged horizontally from the dormer and connected to a lateral pipe leading to the complex's smoke stack. Above the building's northwest corner. the bridge connecting Building No. 13 meets an enclosed passageway that penetrates the upper north corner of the asphalt-shingled west slope. An original dormer like those on Building No. 1 was removed circa 1955 from the west slope's south end.
Building No. 3:
The tall brick smoke stack serving the boiler plant soars above the southeast corner of Building No. 3. Of square plan, the smoke stack tapers slightly upward for most of its height and then flares the remainder to the top. A corbeled inverted triangle appears on each face at the transition. Projecting from No. 3's west elevation at ground level, a rectangular concrete coal chute conveys coal from the railroad siding to the bunker in the basement of Building No. 2.
Building No. 4:
Building No. 5:
Building No. 6:
Building No. 7
Building No. 7's gable roof retains the original slate only on its northeast section; asphalt shingles and, more recently, aluminum sheathing have been applied to the remainder. Slate survives also as cladding on the vertical surfaces of two gabled, pedimented dormers that emerge from the roof's east slope. Three similar dormers have been removed from the west slope.
Building No. 8:
Building No. 8 A:
Building No. 9:
Building No. 10 and 10-A:
Building No. 11:
The five-bay (50-foot) east elevation of No. 11 is dominated by a 10 by 12-foot brick elevator tower added to the building circa 1890. Crowned by a modest corbeled cornice, the flat-topped tower rises above the building's present roofline to the height of the original gable peak (whose outline remains visible on the tower's exposed west facade).
Building No. 11-A:
Building No. 12:
Building No. 13:
Building No. 14:
Building No. 15:
The utilitarian interiors of the Moore and Thompson buildings retain much original fabric along with the results of alterations made sporadically throughout the complex's history. The materials used for the interior walls vary from building to building in combinations of wood and brick augmented by steel. Originally the floors were framed and surfaced uniformly with wood: twentieth century alterations introduced steel framing and concrete surfaces, especially in Building No. 11. The gable roofs are generally carried by wood trusses reinforced with iron tie rods; this structural system eliminated the need for interior posts that would have interfered with the placement of machinery.
The most distinctive structural features occur on the first (ground) floor of Building No. 11. Massive brick semicircular arches extend the length of the building in four parallel series - each of four arches - rising from the ground level to support the second floor. Apparently the arches were intended to carry the great weight of the two Fourdrinier paper machines - one 72-inch and one 84-inch model - that were installed on the second floor.
After the abandonment of paper manufacture circa 1970, the related machinery and equipment was mostly removed from the buildings. However, there remains in the northwest corner of Building No. 1's basement a massive iron pulp beater that was fabricated in 1918 by J. H. Horne and Company of Lawrence, Massachusetts. The beater was driven by belts from a 100-horsepower Westinghouse electric motor that also remains in place.
Another survivor from the paper mill's mechanical equipment continues in active service. Installed secondhand in 1936 in Building No. 3 to replace four smaller boilers in Building No. 2, a Babcock and Wilcox 400-horsepower, coal-fired, water-tube steam boiler produces 24,000 pounds of steam per hour to heat the entire complex. A Taylor automatic stoker delivers coal from the bin in Building No. 2 located below a chute from the railroad siding.
An insurance diagram of the Moore and Thompson complex prepared in 1919 identifies the contemporary uses of the extant buildings. At that time, the lower group of buildings had reached its ultimate expansion but the upper buildings had not yet been constructed. The company then produced manila wrapper, kraft paper, and ruled writing paper, using the fifteen buildings in the following manner:
Cutting Building, No. 1:
Coal and Boiler House, No. 2:
Building No. 3
Building No. 4:
Building No. 5:
Building No. 6:
Beater Engine Building, No. 7:
Storeroom, No. 8
Building No. 8-A:
Building No. 9:
Building No. 10:
Building No. 10-A:
Machine Room Building, No. 11:
Building No. 11-A;
Building No. 12:
The 1919 plan also indicates the numerous other paper mill buildings that closely surrounded the Moore and Thompson complex on the north, east, and south. Excepting a mostly burned mill on the north (whose hydraulic system was being used by Bellows Falls Electric Company for generation), the mills belonged to the extensive International Paper Company complex which by the 1920's stood vacant. These mills were mostly demolished in the late 1920's.
The New England Power Company's head works, power house, and substation now flank the lower group of Moore and Thompson buildings on the south. To the west stand a small deteriorated hydrant house of unknown age that presumably served paper mills in the area and a brick former International Paper Company Stock house. Around the east and north sides of the lower group of buildings in the Complex remain stone foundations and former canal walls, cinder dumps, partly collapsed masonry tailraces (the largest emerging at the river's edge beneath a brick arch visible in Photograph l), the remains of an incinerator of unknown age and some concrete retaining walls along the river bank. The upper group of buildings in the Complex is flanked on the east by a utility company storage yard. Scattered commercial development lines the north side of Bridge Street in the vicinity of the Complex.
The nominated property is limited to the intact Moore and Thompson Paper Mill Complex and a small amount of surrounding land which incidentally contains some of the minor elements noted above; most of the structures noted above are outside of the boundary of the nominated property.
The former Moore and Thompson Paper Mill complex holds significance both for its architectural nature and its historical association with the physical and economic development of Bellows Falls village. The complex includes representative examples of two distinct types and periods of industrial architecture: the late nineteenth century multi-story, gable roofed mill buildings constructed over their source of water power (the East Branch of the Bellows Falls canal) and the early twentieth century single-story, flat-roofed factory related to its power source only by electrical transmission lines. The Moore and Thompson mill played a leading role in the industry that dominated Bellows Falls' economy during the half century after 1870, and remains the largest paper mill complex from that period The scarcity of such industrial complexes in generally rural Vermont gives the Moore and Thompson mill complex additional significance as an historic resource.
Prior to the formation of the Moore and Thompson partnership, Albert C. Moore gained his early experience in paper making by operating a small mill at Bartonsville, a hamlet eight miles northwest of Bellows Falls. A great flood in 1869 destroyed Moore's mill and he moved into the larger village next to the Great Falls of the Connecticut River At the beginning of 1870, William A. Russell opened the first paper mill in Bellows Falls to use wood pulp rather than rags (the raw material of earlier mills at the village), and Moore became his first paper machine tender.
The following year, Moore entered a partnership with Charles H. Shepley and built a paper mill on the West Branch of the Bellows Falls canal. That mill remains standing and is identified as Building #22C in the National Register nomination for the Bellows Falls Downtown Historic District, q.v.). In 1875, Moore exchanged partners; he bought out Shepley's interest and then sold to Edward Arms a half interest in the business, thereby creating the partnership that would construct the original Moore and Thompson buildings
Although busily engaged in Bellows Falls' paper industry, Moore and his partners accounted only for a minor share of its explosive growth during the 1870's. William A. Russell controlled much of the activity. He purchased the Bellows Falls Canal Company with its excessive land holdings, enlarged the canal to provide increased water power, and organized the Fall Mountain Paper Company that dominated the local industry until its 1898 merger into the giant International Paper Company. Propelled by the paper industry, Bellows Falls entered a quarter-century of industrial expansion and commercial development unparalleled in its history. (See the National Register nomination for the Bellows Falls Downtown Historic District.)
Moore and Arms clearly shared the expansive mood of that epoch. At the turn of decade their attention shifted to a vacant area along the canal's East Branch for the development of a larger paper mill. Construction of the original buildings - Nos. 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 11, and possibly part of 4 of what became the Moore and Thompson complex - occurred in 1880-8[1?]
That effort may have overstretched the partners' financial resources; in March, 1882 they sold to Horace W. Thompson for $20,000 an undivided one-third interest in the enterprise. Deeds indicate that the strengthened partnership then proceeded in November of the same year to purchase from the Bellows Falls Canal Company the previously leased mill lot flanking the East Branch together with the six mill-powers of water from the canal (the latter, however, carrying an annual rental of $450.00 per mill-power). The partnership of Moore, Arms and Thompson lasted until 1892; then Arms withdrew and the remaining principals formed the Moore and Thompson Paper Company.
Expansion of the complex began with the addition of Building No. 3 and continued in 1892 with the construction of No. 6. By the turn of the century, the company produced twenty tons of paper daily; about sixty persons were employed and two paper machines were in operation. A. C. Moore was president and manager, H. W. Thompson was treasurer and Frank A. Moore (son of Albert C.) and Henry R. Thompson were assistant superintendents. Buildings No. 10, 10-A, and 12 were added to the complex within a few years of 1900, and Fred L. Thompson, (son of Horace W.) joined Frank A. Moore in succeeding their fathers as principals in the company. Subsequent expansion brought the original complex to its ultimate development by 1917.
A major shift in the source and type of power for the Moore and Thompson mill was arranged in 1914. The paper company then leased to the Bellows Falls Electric Company its right to draw from the canal the volume of water equivalent to six mill-powers - one mill power equaling 30 cubic feet of water per second at a head of 25 feet. In exchange, the paper company received delivery of 300 kilowatts of electricity per hour. (The complex still receives electricity under the terms of this lease today.)
A detailed survey of the Moore and Thompson paper mill was prepared by O. P. Black in 1919 for the Associated Mutual Insurance Companies. The resulting plan, view, and sections illustrate the complex and its uses shortly after the addition of the last contiguous buildings. Employment at the mill had not changed from the turn-of-the-century level (60) and the two Fourdrinier paper machines - one 72-inch and one 84-inch model - continued in operation. The firm then produced manila wrapper, kraft paper, and ruled writing paper.
Despite the 1914 lease of the company's water rights, the 1919 survey records that the mill continued to rely on water power. The breakdown by source included 1000 horsepower from water, 265 horsepower from "water electric transmission," 175 horsepower from steam, and a "small amount of electricity from outside source...." The drawn view of the complex indicates the canal's East Branch entering the arched intake under the south elevation of Building No. 1 and leaving beneath the north elevation of Building No. 3. A diversion under Building No. 4 delivered water to two turbines beneath Building .No. 7, and the discharge curved under the attached Buildings No. 9, 11, and 11-A to a tailrace.
The following decade brought great changes both to Bellows Falls' paper industry and to the Moore and Thompson firm. During 1921, the mill was sold (in February) to the Eagle Paper Company of New York but then repurchased (in December) by the local owners. More transfers occurred in 1922; in May, Frank A. Moore sold his family's interest in the company to Fred L. Thompson. Finally in December the Hudson Bag Company of New York.bought the entire stock of the company, eliminating the founding families from ownership.
Hudson Bag moved rather quickly to expand the Bellows Falls operations. In 1924, construction began on the so-called Bag Shop, Buildings No. 13 and 14 that occupy the knoll to the northwest of the original Moore and Thompson complex. A utility bridge with conveyor carried the product of the paper mill to the new factory, the latter increasing by about 75 the total employment at the complex.
While the complex experienced these changes of ownership and expansion, the adjacent International Paper Company - overwhelmingly the largest in Bellows Falls with eleven paper machines in production prior to 1920 - followed an opposite course. A bitter labor conflict erupted in 1921 and subsided only when International Paper closed its mills and withdrew from Bellows Falls, leaving the Moore and Thompson complex the largest paper firm in town.
Between 1926 and 1928, the environs of the Moore and Thompson complex underwent drastic change. A predecessor of the New England Power Company acquired and demolished the vacant International Paper mills, exposing for the first time the south elevation of Moore and Thompson's Building No.7 (and possibly No. 6) that abutted International Paper's building known as No. 6 on a 1919 insurance diagram and as "No. 1 Engine" Building on a 1916 Canal Company plan. The power company then proceeded to enlarge greatly the canal and to construct the present hydroelectric generating station and attendant facilities.
Moore and Thompson's spurt of expansion in the middle 1920's proved shortlived. In November, 1927, the greatest Connecticut Valley flood of this century raged through the incomplete hydroelectric development and the Moore and Thompson mill. The company repaired its damage and continued operations but a depressed paper market brought another halt the following June, leaving some 160 employees temporarily jobless. Production soon resumed but was accompanied by a protracted struggle with the Town of Rockingham over tax exemption for the mill. In September, 1932, operations were again shut down, employment having dropped to 120 owing to the national economic depression. Several months of controversy ensued over tax exemption and wage reductions, and production did not resume until February of 1933. The company fared somewhat better later in the decade, and in 1940 made the final enlargement of the complex, the incompatible third story added to Building No. 11.
The Hudson Bag Company (later the Hudson Pulp and Paper Company) interests maintained their control of the Moore and Thompson complex for forty-one years, equalling the longevity of the original families' ownership. The conclusion of paper making under the Moore and Thompson name came at the end of 1963, when the mill was closed and the 97 employees were dismissed. The company attributed the closing to a variety of factors but a Bellows Falls Times editorial of December 19, 1963 indicated that Hudson Pulp and Paper had simply joined the contemporary industrial exodus from New England's antiquated infrastructure. "New plant facilities and machinery and ample supplies of wood pulp make the Florida. plant more economical."
An attempt by a new owner at reviving the production of paper goods followed in 1964 but did not outlast the decade; early in the 1970's, the paper machinery and equipment were removed from the buildings. In 1974, the complex was adapted to the manufacture of furniture and experienced a revival of activity until the failure of that venture in 1981. Presently (1983) the Moore and Thompson complex is used for active storage and awaits rehabilitation for new uses.
The Moore and Thompson buildings represent a hundred-year history of industrial enterprise devoted, except for the most recent decade, to the manufacture of paper and paper products. Although encrusted with additions, six major buildings - Nos. l, 2, 5, 7, 8, and 11 - continue to convey both the material characteristics of their original design and a strong sense of their late nineteenth century mill functions. Especially evocative are the parallel series of brick arches that occupy Building No. 11's ground floor, built to support the weight of the paper machines formerly installed on the floor above.
The vicissitudes of operational and economic conditions have caused numerous evolutionary changes in the appearance of the original Moore and Thompson buildings, including the addition of several smaller buildings or wings. These alterations and additions have not always contributed in a positive manner to the complex's architectural character but they represent nonetheless various phases of its history and fortune. Generally, the alterations have involved changes of exterior sheathing materials, removal of minor architectural features, or changes of window or door openings; most of the alterations appear reversible if financially feasible.
Within the relatively rural state of Vermont, the Moore and Thompson complex belongs among a small number of multi-building industrial complexes dating from the late nineteenth century. Furthermore, the Moore and Thompson group retains a higher degree of overall architectural integrity than most of its Vermont counterparts. While other complexes have usually lost individual components to fire or demolition, the Moore and Thompson complex displays an architectural continuity representing a century of industrial development.
Child, Hamilton. Gazetteer and Business Directory of Windham County Vt. 1724-1884. Syracuse, N.Y. 1884.
Hayes, Lyman Simpson. History of the Town of Rockingham Vermont. Bellows Falls Vt.: Town of Rockingham, 1907.
Lovell, (Mrs.) Frances Stockwell and Lovell, Leverett C. History of the Town of Rockingham. Bellows Falls, Vt.: Town of Rockingham, 1958.
Rockingham Bicentennial Committee. A Pictorial History of the Town of Rockingham. Bellows Falls, Vt., 1975.
Streets, Public Buildings and General Views of Bellows Falls, Vt. Gardner, Mass.: F. J. Blake, 1885.
Walbridge, J. H. Souvenir Edition of the Bellows Falls Times Devoted to Town of Rockingham. Bellows Falls, Vt.: W. C. Belknap and Co., 1899.
Lot Plan (c.1881) drawn by .J. J. Holbrook, received by Town Clerk December 27, 1882.
Plan of Fall Mountain Paper Co., Bellows Falls, Vermont, Boston Manufacturers Mutual Fire Insurance Co., February 1883.
Plan of Bellows Falls, Vermont, Sanborn-Perris Map Co., Limited, New York, April 1901.
First Floor Plan of the Moore and Thompson Paper Company, no author, c.1915.
Plan of Mills and Waterways Below Arch Bridge, Bellows Falls, Vermont, Bellows Falls Canal Company, January 1916.
Diagram and plan of Moore & Thompson Paper Co., Bellows Falls, Vt. (Serial No. 13,500, Index No. 8473) surveyed and drawn by O. P. Black for Associated Mutual Insurance Companies, Boston Mass., 1919.
Plan Showing Encroachment Upon Land of Bellows Falls Hydro-Electric Corporation by Hudson Pulp & Paper Corporation in Village of Bellows Falls, Rockingham Vermont, (11-10485) New England Power Service Company, Boston, Mass., December 29, 1947.
Plan of Hudson Pulp & Paper Corporation, "Moore & Thompson Division," Bellows Falls, Vt. (Serial No. 43587, Index No. 8437) drawn by F. R. Berzins for Factory Mutual Engineering Division, Associated Factory Mutual Fire Insurance Cos., Norwood, Mass., 1955
Survey Map of Property of the Island Corporation, Bellows Falls, Vermont. Drawing No. 79-952) DiBernardo Associates, Bellows Falls, Vt., November 6, 1979.
DATE ENTERED: March 16, 1984.
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