Friday, April 15, 2011

On the Demise of Twine

...or at least its manufacture here in New England.

At one time, New England was a buzzing hive of manufacturing; as you already know, it’s certainly not that today. “Dead mill town” is a phrase that most locals here understand instantly; the region is full of small towns on watercourses that once provided the power for huge mill operations. Many of these towns still look much like they did at the turn of the 20th century, with gingerbread on the houses and fabulous woodwork now ignored by tenants, interspersed with 60’s concrete block buildings and newer pseudo-residential (see? It has gables!) structures. My town became “quaint” and “artist-friendly” and a favorite weekend destination for folks from NYC so is thriving; the former mills and manufactories now house the historical society, artisans’ co-ops, office space and residences. Other towns haven’t found a new niche yet and are sort of dusty and dreary; the same is true throughout southern New England.

Last weekend I took one of my favorite shortcuts, a tiny road that passes through a former mill village. Neptune Twine and Cord was a major cotton twine (and cord, there is a difference, didn’t you see Mouse Hunt?) manufacturer in the 1800’s; they started out making yarn and later made twine and cord instead. This was the only mill around that didn’t sell at the start of the Civil War, and operations ran mostly-successfully even during the Depression thanks to the fishing industry. For the (surprisingly colorful) saga you can hop here.  Today, the remaining buildings sit empty.  I believe the "village" was last opened briefly in 1988 and has not been open to the public since.

Some of you know that I live in a farmhouse with absolutely no "frou-frou;" the house is all squares and straight lines and it absolutely rebels if I try to gussy it up with pretty moldings and the like.  As a result, I'm a sucker for the ornate woodwork and ironwork seen here.


Yoo-hoo, Pavlov, over here! 

I strolled around freely – there are “no trespassing” signs all over so I didn’t go within any of the gated areas - but I did stand right next to some of the fences to take photos. It was a gorgeous spring day and I was thrilled to do some limited exploring.  I believe this may be the "fountain" that was put up to commemorate the site of Building #1.

I found an 1834 map online that notes this as the schoolhouse, but it's certainly been used as a chapel as well.

I could go all-out and research the full history and current ownership and all that, but I kind of enjoy leaving a tiny bit of mystery.  Stop on by, just take the Johnsonville Road - watch the turn, it's a bit tricky.

circa 1904


  1. Is that a pink barn?! Love it! Thanks for sharing such a fascinating place and story.

  2. Great history. Thanks for sharing the fantastic pictures.