New Bedford’s Oldest Textile Mills Are Still Standing
Nestled between the Acushnet River and what is now Route 18, the Wamsutta Mills have been a part of the New Bedford landscape for many years.
The Wamsutta Mills, located at Acushnet Avenue, Logan, Wamsutta, and North Front Streets, were the first textile manufacturing mills constructed in New Bedford. The first of the mills was operational in 1849, long before the start of the Civil War.
Thomas Bennett, Jr. of Fairhaven developed the Wamsutta Company, which he originally planned for Georgia. The Wamsutta Company took its name from Wamsutta, the son of Massasoit of the Wampanoag Nation.
The Wamsutta Mill complex began with the construction of the first mill, a 212-foot long by 70-foot wide, five-story structure. There would eventually be a total of seven mills in the complex.
Textile manufacturing replaced whaling as the engine driving New Bedford's economy until it fell upon hard times.
At one time, the Wamsutta Company was the largest cotton weaving plant in the world. Wikipedia says, "By 1897, Wamsutta was operating 4,450 looms and employing 2100 workers."
My mother worked for years manufacturing textile products, mostly pajamas, at the Wamsutta Mills in the 1970s. She retired from a company called Bonnie Lane.
The Wamsutta Mills are now home to many folks who probably have no memory of New Bedford's textile industry. Redevelopment of the property began in 2004 with loft-style apartments, some with three bedrooms filling the space once crammed with giant looms and tons of cotton.
The Wamsutta name is still in use and Wamsutta products, such as sheets are still available for purchase today.
The Wamsutta Mills was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 19, 2008.