Empowering the Ware River Valley for Centuries

Thorndike Mill, ca. 1910

Thorndike Mill, ca. 1910


Waterpower has been harnessed and goods manufactured at the site of the Thorndike Mill for almost 300 years. A grist Mill was put in place in 1736, a fulling mill in 1797, and a cotton manufacturing facility in 1836. The complex constructed in 1836 was the first of the buildings that remain on-site today and focused primarily on granite block construction. This building is present today and is located in the heart of the mill complex.

In 1736 a grist mill was about a fourth of a mile below what is now known as the lower privilege at Thorndike. With the exception of a mill located in Ware Village, this was the first mill erected in what was known as the elbow tract along the Ware River. In 1797 a dam was built at what is known as the upper privilege, just below the sharp bend in the stream and a grist mill was erected on the north side of the River.

In 1836, the Thorndike Company was incorporated for the purposes of manufacturing cotton, woolen and silk goods. The first dam was put in on the lower privilege in 1837 and the No. 1 mill was built that same year. The mill was 175 ft by 50 ft and 6 stories high. Power was obtained from two breast wheels. A turbine wheel was substituted for the breast wheels in 1862.  The first product was plain white goods, shirtings and sheeting with a total number of looms at 232. A turbine was substituted for the breast wheels in 1862 and a new dam on this privilege was built in 1868. The new part of the No. 1 mill was started in 1881 and a dye house built when the product was changed to colored goods. In 1884 there were in operation 728 looms and 32,336 spindles with a total of 600 employees.

The mill complex has exchanged hands several times over the last 100 years. Most recently, it was known as Cascades Diamond and was a manufacturing facility for egg cartons and related products.

All of the buildings located within the complex are original construction added over the facility’s long history. The existing dams remain in place and hydropower power is generated with turbines just as it was in 1868.