Photo by Matt Kierstead

The History of the Mill

The complex of buildings at 60 Valley Street is made up of conjoined buildings built during different time periods over more than 200 years. In 1773, Christopher Olney, operator of the Rising Sun Paper Mill, constructed a one story building for use as a paper mill, calling it the Brown George. After several different owners, the Brown George became part of the Providence Bleaching Dyeing and Calendaring Company (PBD&C) in 1845 as the company expanded and converted the site and adjacent land to a bleachery. When the PBD&C aquired the property, the paper mill was converted to a Bleach House and renamed Valley Bleachery.

Expansion: New Buildings and Their Uses

Many improvements and expansions were made in phases to the buildings and surrounding land to modernize the plant between 1845 and 1918.

A three story building parallel to the bleach house was constructed for bleaching, packing and storage. By 1900 the two buildings were combined into one. Between 1843 and 1849 the three story Grey Room was built. In this building, unbleached woven goods direct from the loom were washed in an alkali solution, a process known as grey scouring.

In 1875, the Kier Room and a loading dock were built, with a second floor added in 1888. This room contained large metal vats used for boiling out cotton goods with an alkali solution before bleaching or dyeing. The second floor was used to "mercerize" cotton fibers: treating them chemically to make them stronger and more receptive to dyeing. A Lime Room was built later to serve as a loading and shipping area as well as a storage area for the lime used in the kier boiling process.

Several other buildings were created around the original Bleach House to expand operations of the PDB&C: a two-story building for the starching, drying and finishing of cloth; a single-story boiler and engine room; a four-story storage house; and a two-story calendaring building. Calendaring is the process of moving fabric through a series of heated rollers as a means of obtaining finishes such as "glazed" or "watered".

The End of the Textile Era

The mill continued its operations into the 20th Century, eventually specializing in fast color vat dyeing of cotton fabrics and the finishing of heavyweight fabrics. After World War II, the company equipped the plant for dyeing and finishing synthetic materials. During the next few years, the company was unable to secure a profitable market and was eventually liquidated in 1952 after 137 years of operation. Since then the plant has been occupied by various tenants, but is currently vacant and ready for life inside its great walls.

The Plant 60 Valley Street Olneyville Providence RI

Professionally managed by Armory Management Company
60 Valley Street, Providence, RI 02909

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