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Steam Powered Factories

Factories during the second half of the 19th century are characterized by the introduction of steam power. Separate buildings housed the steam engine, chimney stacks and water tanks were constructed, and belts and shafts were moved to the exterior of the building. The development of steam power also prompted the evolution of the factory model. By 1850, the importance of railroad transportation prompted factories to be constructed near rail lines rather than rivers. Advances in iron and steel allowed the factory to expand significantly. The iron and steel frames also allowed for larger windows. After the Civil War, in the late 1860s, factories moved into designated factory zones. Many older factories located along the water were updated to steam power.

The following image illustrates a number of industries that have grown around the railroad tracks.

Steam Powered Factory Along Railroad

Steam Powered Factory Along Railroad: Image courtesy of the University of Vermont Landscape Change Program and the University of Vermont Special Collections

The images below depict what are likely an older mills that have been upgraded to steam power.

Steam Powered Factory Steam Powered Factory

Steam Powered Factories: Image courtesy of the University of Vermont Landscape Change Program and the University of Vermont Special Collections. Image courtesy of the University of Vermont Landscape Change Program

The exterior workings of the factory can be seen in the image below, including a belt running between the two buildings and a large smokestack.

Belts and Smokestack

Belts and Smokestack: Image courtesy of the University of Vermont Landscape Change Program and the University of Vermont Archives, Collamer Abbott Collection

The factory in the image below displays long rows of large windows that are common to the second half of the 19th century. The smokestack indicates the use of steam power. The factory is not yet as low and sprawling as later 19th century factories.

Steam Powered Factory

Steam Powered Factory: Image courtesy of the University of Vermont Landscape Change Program and the Hartford Historical Society

The sprawling brick factories in the images below characterize the second half of the 19th century. As the end of the century approached, buildings became lower and more expansive. Also note the smokestacks.

Steam Powered Factory

Steam Powered Factory: Image courtesy of the University of Vermont Landscape Change Program

Steam Powered Factory

Steam Powered Factory: Image courtesy of the University of Vermont Landscape Change Program and the Vermont Historical Society

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