Grant, van donation bring life to Lincoln’s Moffett Mill

Grant, van donation bring life to Lincoln’s Moffett Mill

The windows of the historic Moffett Mill are currently undergoing restoration and preservation work, made possible by a $47,150 grant from The Champlin Foundation, according to the Friends of Hearthside. The mill will be accessible to the public more frequently in the future after a Woonsocket couple donated their van to shuttle visitors safely down Great Road to the property. (Breeze photo by Nicole Dotzenrod)

LINCOLN – Wondering why some of the windows of Lincoln’s Moffett Mill have been boarded over with plywood? It’s not because of vandalism or other recent damage.

The windows of the historic mill building along Great Road are being wholly restored thanks to a $47,150 grant from The Champlin Foundation, according to the Friends of Hearthside.

“This grant is incredibly important to preserving this rare early American machine shop, and we are grateful for Champlin’s support in recognition of it,” said Kathy Hartley, president of the Friends of Hearthside, who applied for the grant.

There are some 35 windows in the mill, which sits snugly alongside the Moshassuck River just below Chase Farm Park.

The mill’s original windows, which were beginning to rot with age, are being meticulously restored and preserved by Newport Window Restoration, which specializes in the repair of windows in historic buildings and homes. A number of windows have already been repaired, but the windows that remain boarded up with plywood are still out being restored.

The Moffett Mill is “one of the last remaining relics of the early Industrial Revolution,” said Hartley. “You have the Slater Mill in Pawtucket, but the Moffett Mill here on Great Road was one of several smaller manufacturers that popped up after the War of 1812.”

The mill rose up thanks to the removal of an embargo on British goods, which spurred new industry in New England and beyond. Locally, small operations such as the Moffett Mill, Hannaway Blacksmith Shop, Manchester Print Works, the Butterfly Mill and the Olney Thread Mill began to take hold.

The Moffett Mill was constructed in 1812 by George Olney, whose surname is recognized as one of Lincoln’s prominent founding families and whose land once included parts of present-day Lincoln Woods. It was among the first mills in the area to offer metalworking technology, and was later used to make tools and repair vital machine parts for the other mills in the area.

The name Moffett Mill did not come until later in the 1800s, after Arnold Moffett purchased the property in 1850 and replaced the mill’s waterwheel with a more modern water-driven turbine. In the years to come, the three-story mill was used to make furniture and wagons, braiding machines used to produce shoe and corset laces, wooden boxes and a variety of other tools and machine parts.

“They basically built the community,” Hartley said of the mill’s impact.

After closing for business around 1900, Hartley said the mill was on the brink of collapse before it was restored in the 1990s, with the original equipment still intact. The mill is owned by the town of Lincoln and managed as a museum by the Friends of Hearthside.

“This was a significant area of industry at the time and nearly all traces of that are gone except for the Moffett Mill, which has been frozen in time,” said Hartley. “People (really marvel) when they see the machinery, tools and equipment. It closed in 1900 and looks like the workers went to lunch and never returned.”

This year, the mill will be open to more visitors and history enthusiasts than ever thanks to a recent donation to the Friends of Hearthside by Frederick and Alice Reinhardt, of Woonsocket. The couple has donated their van, which they used for their antique business and hobby, to be used to shuttle visitors from Hearthside down to the mill, which was previously inaccessible to the public unless the Friends of Hearthside rented a shuttle bus.

“We’d only hire the shuttle during major events, so the mill would only open once or twice a year, until the Reinhardts came along and gave us the van,” said Hartley. Suddenly, we don’t have to wait for a major event and can make it more accessible to the public.”