April 18, 2021

Details in Stone

Essex Company Machine Shop (the Stone Mill) was built as part of Lawrence’s first wave of construction which included the Great Stone Dam, the locks and canals, and several mill buildings including the Duck and Pemberton. The machine shop was designed to manufacture the machinery to be used in the textile mills that were sprouting up along the river. It was not, however, limited to the production of textile machinery. Also produced here were turbine wheels, sewing machines and locomotive engines. 

While I’ve known that the machine shop produced locomotives, I never knew to what extent until I did some digging at the Lawrence History Center. The staff at LHC pointed me to several of their records on the early history of Lawrence where I found the Robert H. Tewksbury’s 1878 book chronicling the history of Essex County. 

In it, Tewksbury includes a section on each of the city’s prominent mill buildings. Of The Lawrence Machine Shop he wrote the following. 

“Anything in iron-work, from a spindle to a locomotive, was made. Soon after starting, the construction of locomotives was made a specialty.  The first one sent out was the “Essex,” running from Lawrence to Boston ; the second, of the same name, ran from Lowell to Boston ; the “Welland” and “Trent” went to Ogdensburg (New York) ; several others to the Erie Railway. Perhaps no company, at the outset, brought to the new city so many families of industrious people, so likely to permanently establish themselves as enterprising citizens, as did this machine shop, in the palmy days when skilled labor centred there from all quarters.”

Robert H. Tewksbury, History of Essex County, 1878

Still need some perspective? Below is a lithograph depicting the “Abbott Lawrence,” a passenger engine built at The Lawrence Machine Shop around 1855. 

Digital Commonwealth | Massachusetts Collections Online

My favorite images of the Stone Mill are the ones that capture the unique details of the building and exclude elements that are remotely modern. This one does just that, plus has the added benefit of capturing the dappled morning sunlight reflected from the Everett Mill.

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