Burlington's Lakeside Avenue has been home to the Queen City's largest manufacturing operations, Vermont's first factory housing complex, and is currently where the city's oldest continuously operating manufacturer, Blodgett Ovens, still produces cooking equipment not unlike that which was manufactured barely a mile away, over 165 years ago.
Before 1894, Burlington's Lakeside Avenue area was considered to be a suburban area of fertile farmland on the banks of Lake Champlain. Since the end of the 19th century, Lakeside Avenue has been home to companies that have produced cotton textiles, airplane turrets, small machinery such as coin machines and small gasoline engines, and fully integrated land, sea, and air systems for the U.S. military.
In 1894, the Draper Corporation of Massachusetts began the construction of a new mill to prove a new loom design, utilize new, unorganized labor markets, and take advantage of area's rail lines, which afforded very favorable freight rates. By the early 1900s, what had become the Queen City Cotton Company constructed its "Lakeside Development" on vacant land directly southwest of 128 Lakeside Avenue, creating Vermont's first factory housing. After the company's dissolution in the late 1930s, the mill buildings at 128 Lakeside Avenue were seized by the U.S. Government in the early 1940s from the E.B. & A.C. Whiting Tulatex Corporation and reallocated to Bell Aircraft for wartime weapons production. After the war, General Electric purchased the facility from Bell Aircraft and used it to manufacture weapons systems until the late 1990s when Lockheed Martin and then General Dynamics, purchased the buildings and Lakeside Avenue operations. Burlington's oldest manufacturer, Blodgett Ovens, began the production of ovens at its College Street location in 1848 and in 1945, finally moved to its newly constructed factory buildings at 44 and 50 Lakeside Avenue, directly west of the Queen City Cotton Mill buildings. Like the Queen City Cotton Company, at its new location Blodgett Ovens was able to take advantage of the adjacent rail lines for the delivery of raw materials and shipment of finished products. Today, the Queen City Cotton Mill's main building has been successfully adapted to house dozens of commercial and non-profit companies, with rare vacancies. The Lakeside Development is largely unchanged, still accessible only by Lakeside Avenue and home to many working-class families, while Blodgett Ovens continues to thrive at its Lakeside Avenue facility. On a warm day, the factory's cracked windows and the heavy, metallic sounds of machinery, accompanied by dozens of voices raised just enough to be heard over the mechanical chorus, provide a portal to the past and a glimpse of what makes the company vital to Burlington's manufacturing future.
-Bomber armament turrets
-GAU-8A 30mm gun system
-Universal turret for helicopter gunships
-"The Goalkeeper" SGE-30 30mm weapon system
-"The Phlanx" 30mm weapon system
-M61 Vulcan Gun
-Missile assemblies and guidance
-Vulcan Air Defense System
1848. G.S. Blodgett & Co. is incorporated.
1854. Blodgett and Sweet's Galvanized Portable oven is patented in the U.S. and Canada.
1865. G.S. Blodgett is decorated for his efforts during the American Civil War.
1866. G.S. Blodgett & Co. begins to manufacture Excelsior Mop Sticks at its (present day) 191 College Street.
1875. G.S. Blodgett & Co. wins a "First Class Premium" prize medal at the Vermont state fair from the Ohio Mechanics Institute.
1888. G.S. Blodgett & Co. plumbed Shelburne Farm buildings for Dr. W. Seward Webb.
1894. Construction of Queen City Cotton Mill began at 128 Lakeside Avenue.
1895. Construction of the mill is completed and the engines are started for the first time on January 30.
1895. Queen City Cotton Company adds additional spinning equipment and humidifiers.
1899. Queen City Cotton Company constructs and completes its 75,000 sq. ft. Weaving Room addition, the largest single room in the state of Vermont.
1899. Queen City Cotton Company begins construction of its factory housing, the "Lakeside Development." The first factory housing in Vermont.
1899. Queen City Cotton Company builds a larger cotton storehouse.
1900. G.S. Blodgett & Co. patents a new oven design, the "Portable Cabinet Oven."
1903. G.S. Blodgett & Co. begins construction of a new building at 1904-194 Bank Street.
1905. G.S. Blodgett & Co. moves from 191 College Street to 190-194 Bank Street.
1910. Queen City Cotton Company changed the direction of its two railroad spurs from originating in the south to originating in the north.
1912. (~ 1905-12) Queen City Cotton Company constructed an above ground bridge that connected the main mill building to the cotton storehouse.
1917. Queen City Cotton Company adds a fourth story to the main mill building.
1925. Queen City Cotton Mill updates its equipment to produce women's wear and combed cotton yarn.
1926. G.S. Blodgett & Co. moved oven manufacturing to 50-53 (57 today) Maple Street.
1937. Queen City Cotton Company begins to liquidate its Lakeside buildings.
1938. Queen City Cotton Company has been dissolved and its Lakeside buildings sit vacant.
1941. E.B. & A.C. Whiting purchase the Queen City Cotton Mill buildings for their Tulatex manufacturing.
1943. U.S. Government seized the former Queen City Cotton Mill buildings for essential wartime production.
1944. Bell Aircraft leased Queen city Cotton Mill for wartime production.
1949. General Electric purchased the former Queen City Cotton Mill for $675,000.
1945. G.S. Blodgett & Co. begins the construction of new manufacturing facilities on Lakeside Avenue.
1946-47. G.S. Blodgett & Co. moves all operations to Lakeside Avenue.
1947-50. G.S. Blodgett & Co. expands its Lakeside Avenue facilities.
1950s. G.S. Blodgett & Co. perfects a pizza cooking oven and its manufacture.
1960s. Blodgett Ovens perfects their Zephaire line of convection ovens.
1969. 3,700 people were working at General Electric's Lakeside Avenue plant.
1993. Lockheed Martin purchased General Electric's Lakeside division.
1997. Blodgett Ovens was sold to Maytag.
1997. Lockheed sold its Lakeside Avenue building's and operations to General Dynamics.
2001. Blodgett ovens was sold to the Middleby Corporation of Illinois.
2001. Queen City Cotton Mill's "sawtooth" weaving room is demolished to create a parking lot.
2010. General Dynamics left the former Queen City Cotton Mill and relocated to IBM space in Williston, Vermont.
Blodgett Ovens: Burlington's Hottest and Oldest Manufacturer
Blodgett Ovens, whose factory buildings overlook Lake Champlain, project a commanding presence at the end of Burlington’s Lakeside Avenue. Sandwiched between the gentle lapping of water on its westerly end and the city’s bike path on the length of its easterly walls, something is still cooking at Blodgett Ovens after 165 years of manufacturing in Vermont’s Queen City.
Undeniably one of Burlington’s oldest manufacturers and perhaps the sole company to remain in constant operation since the mid-19th century, Blodgett Ovens has a long and storied past. Born in Rochester, Vermont on November 10, 1819, Gardener Spring (G.S.) Blodgett, a founding partner, attended the Jericho Academy, after which he sold dry goods in New York until 1852, when he returned to Vermont and was “appointed mail agent on the Burlington and Boston route.”1 Blodgett Oven’s beginning, the G.S. Blodgett & Co., was created sometime around 1848 through a partnership between G.S. Blodgett and a seemingly anonymous Paul T. Sweet. An exact date of incorporation as well as Sweet’s specific role and length of time with the company is uncertain.
Nonetheless, by 1854 the two men had begun to revolutionize the way ovens were manufactured, powered, and used with the patent of their first original product. “Blodgett and Sweet’s Patent Galvanized Portable Oven.”2 Patented the week of December 5, 1854, by Blodgett and Sweet in the United States, it was manufactured in any size a customer requested. The oven was a basic square box with an exterior of raw sheet iron, lightly coated in zinc, “which contains within itself a small box stove, the pipe from which passes through the box and out its top. Iron racks within support the things to be baked. The sides of the box are made double, with an air chamber between.”3 The oven was reported to be at least 50 percent more efficient than its competition, insulated so effectively that one could hold a hand to the outside while food was being cooked, which was especially useful and effectively tested in hotels and houses.4 A Friday morning, June 5, 1854 Burlington Free Press article headlined “The Oven” notes that Blodgett and Sweet had also patented the oven in Canada, adding a boiler on the side of some models that received hot water from internal pipes. Advertisements the following year for “Blodgett and Sweet’s Galvanized Oven” are the only ones that list the manufacturer as P.T. Sweet of College Street, Burlington.5
After 1855, the name of the oven remained the same, as did the manufacturing address of “College Street, Burlington, Vermont,” but throughout later advertisements and newspaper references, the manufacturer calls itself G.S. Blodgett, Co. or G.S. Blodgett & Co. Although no address is printed, a Burlington Free Press advertisement published Friday morning, May 13, 1859, by the G.S. Blodgett & Co., is promotes the sale of refrigerators in all sizes, bird cages in “new and beautiful patterns,” ice cream freezers that are the “best in the world,” stove blacking “at wholesale,” stew pans, water coolers, footbaths, and enameled and brass kettles. In a Free Press advertisement from Friday morning, June 25 of the previous year, G.S. Blodgett & Co. notes their stock of ranges, hot air furnaces, registers, suction and force pumps, and lead pipes of all dimensions, jobber work of all kinds “done in the best possible manner,” refrigerators, and of course, the patented galvanized portable oven made by the company. All of this was available at the “Chittenden County Stove-Warehouse,” at the “Old and Established stand” located on Church Street, but no specific number is provided.
Throughout the company’s history, G.S. Blodgett & Co. sought to stay up to date with the latest consumer appliance and home goods trends, selling more than the few items they manufactured. A popular stove throughout the northeast in the late 1850s and early 1860s was called the “Economist.”6 This stove could burn either coal or wood. In 1858, the same year this stove was patented in the United States, G.S. Blodgett was already advertising that very stove as “the most perfect cook stove in the world” for sale at their “Chittenden County” warehouse, which no doubt was the same building they had been occupying on College Street, the precise address still unknown.7
Ever ambitious, two years later, G.S. Blodgett and Co. began to experiment with gas-powered ovens and stoves, 42 years before the current Blodgett Ovens time line states that the company began to develop ovens utilizing gas as an energy source.8 At the College Street building, G.S. Blodgett & Co. facilitated a demonstration by Calvin Pepper from Albany, New York of Pepper’s then-newly patented gas heater, “a simple cylinder (of) wire gauze, filled with fine siliceous sand, into the centre [sic] of which passes a perforated tube, which is connected with the gas pipes of the building.”9 Affordable gas-fired flame reportedly heated the infusible sand, which then evenly radiated heat throughout the oven. Pepper believed G.S. Blodgett & Co.’s galvanized oven was “admirably” capable of effectively using his heater as a heat source rather than wood or coal. Experiments were performed using Blodgett and Sweet’s No. 3 oven that measured 29 inches high by 24 inches wide by 18 inches deep, with the capacity for 20 two-pound loaves of bread. Using one of Pepper’s heaters, measuring five inches long and one and one-half inches in diameter, four “good sized” loaves of bread were baked in 30 minutes, using five cubic feet of gas, “costing, at the high rates of gas here, 2 1/4 cents; but which in N.Y. city, would cost but half that, and in Philadelphia, less than one cent.”10 The anonymous staff writer of this article concludes by suggesting that if heating and cooking could be done by gas at the price of other fuels, a heating apparatus revolution would be inevitable. By 1860, the G.S. Blodgett & Co., ever diversifying, was also was selling Strong and Ross’ patented “Howe’s Improved Weighing Scales” for private families, grocers, hay, and post offices.11
G.S. Blodgett & Co’s manufacturing efforts, however, were curtailed with the onset of the American Civil War, which lasted from April 1861 to May 10, 1865. A failed October 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry by John Brown, the election of President Abraham Lincoln in November 1860, South Carolina’s December 1860 secession, and the formation of the Confederacy, which attacked Charleston’s Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, were but a few of the defining moments that contributed to the onset of America’s internal war waged by the northern Union and southern Confederacy, in order to define the type of nation America would become. Both during and after the Civil War, the United States Army was a major purchaser of Blodgett and Sweet’s patent galvanized oven to be used in camps and on the battlefield.12 The patented stove had begun to garner not only national recognition, but also international regard. A January 27, 1860 Burlington Free Press blurb titled “All Round the World” mentioned that Blodgett and Sweet had recently fulfilled an order for their patent ovens from the Sandwich Islands (a name given to the Hawaiian Islands by Captain James Cook in 1778) and the previous week, they had sent numerous galvanized ovens to Australia.
G.S. Blodgett, as a member of Burlington’s First Vermont Calvary Regiment, enlisted to help with the Union effort as soon as war broke out. President Lincoln commissioned him as Captain and Assistant Quartermaster, United States Volunteers, 1861; Captain and Assistant Quartermaster, United States Army, 1864; “and was breveted [sic] major in 1865, for faithful and meritorious service during the war,” including his role as Chief Depot Quartermaster in Annapolis, Maryland for the year of 1862.13 While in Annapolis, he also oversaw the construction of a smallpox hospital, built from his own original plans and laid out the Annapolis National Cemetery; he selected the site and purchased the grounds.14
Once the war ended, Blodgett returned to Burlington, focused again on G.S. Blodgett & Co. The year 1866 is the first year that 23 College Street location is listed as an address, and also the first year advertisements were found for a new product the company had begun manufacturing. “Excelsior Mop Sticks.” These mop sticks were “unrivaled,” manufactured “for the trade the best MOP STICKS [emphasis retained] in use, and at lower prices than any other of the same quality.”15 By this time, the company had not developed their own gas-apparatus oven, but rather began to advertise and sell a new gas apparatus called “Drake’s Patent Automatic” patented May 5, 1862, in addition to continuing to sell their own galvanized oven, Howe’s scales, and many other cooking supplies.16 Additionally, G.S. Blodgett & Co. began to advertise as capable plumbers and gas fitters for every occasion within this same ad, throughout 1866 and beyond.
Although Burlington’s 1866-68 city directories list G.S. Blodgett & Co.’s address simply as “Burlington,” an 1868 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map lists a brick, four-story “tin-ware” shop at 33 College Street (present-day 191 College Street).17 The directory of the same year notes that G.S. Blodgett & Co., firm, is located at 82 S. Winooski Avenue.18 This remains the same until Gardner’s death. According to Sanborn’s 1894 Fire Insurance Map, this was a brick, two-and-one-half-story dwelling with a rectangular framed addition, possibly Gardner’s home and office.19 As the 19th century progressed, Blodgett and Sweet’s patent galvanized oven continued to prove popular throughout the world. According to an 1869 Burlington Free Press ad published Friday morning, January 16, 1869, the oven had gained a reputation “of which we [G.S. Blodgett & Co.] may say without boasting, is CONSIDERABLE.” By 1875, the oven had won a prize medal from the Ohio Mechanics Institute, “First Class Premium” at the Vermont state fair, and a silver medal at the “Late Exposition at Vienna, Austria,” among others.20 Interestingly, by the same year, the oven had proved useful for more than simply cooking and baking. Many testimonials collected across the United States praised its usefulness in japanning, blueing [sic], hardening rubber, bronzing, and drying foundry cores.21 The company had distribution partners for their stoves in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Quebec, Pennsylvania, and of course, Vermont, while wholesalers were as far-flung as Detroit, Michigan and London, England. Numbers 3 and 4 of the Blodgett and Sweet oven were advertised as being ideal for private families. In 1875, a number three oven sold for $30 and was only available to burn wood. Its outside dimensions measured 2 feet, 8 inches high by 2 feet, 3 inches wide, by 1 foot, 8 inches deep. A number 4 sold for $45 in a wood-burning model and $50 for a coal-burning oven. Its dimensions were 3 feet high, by 2 feet, 6 inches wide, by 1 foot, 11 inches deep. Numbers 7 through 9 were manufactured to be built exclusively used on brick foundations, “being so large that it is impossible to use legs for a support,” able to cook food for 100 to 400 people, respectively.22 A number 9 oven could be purchased for $200 (~ $5,500 in 2013) in either a wood- or coal-burning configuration and measured 5 feet, 10 inches high, 4 feet 11 inches wide, and 3 feet two inches deep.
In addition to the manufacturing and global sales of their manufactured goods, the general hardware, cookware, and especially the plumbing, gas fitting, and heating services of G.S. Blodgett & Co. grew exponentially in scale and prominence throughout the Burlington area. During the winter of 1870, Burlington’s post office and customs house underwent a series of renovations and repairs. G.S. Blodgett & Co. was contracted to do all necessary heating, plumbing, and gas fittings for the project. The company installed a new steam heating furnace and boiler in the basement, which supplied steam to wound coils in each of the building’s rooms, effectively heating the entire structure comfortably throughout the winter. The company also installed a set of “fine” water closets within the basement.23 Called a “Great Stock Farm” by the Burlington Free Press in a January 6, 1888 article, Dr. W. Seward Webb began to buy up pristine land along the banks of Lake Champlain around the Shelburne area. Situated among Webb’s 1,800-acre tract were magnificent structures in varying stages of construction, a water pumping station, and multiple livestock buildings. G.S. Blodgett & Co. provided two Richardson and Boynton furnaces to help construction persist throughout the winter, themselves installing tin work, piping, and plumbing under the supervision of Webb’s hired farm foreman Archibald Taylor of Burlington and John K. Weed of Shelburne, charged with general farm oversight.
A reorganization and/or modifications of Burlington’s streets is in fact seemingly the only explanation for these initial contradictions. The company’s first listed address, 23 College Street, would place it almost on the waterfront using today’s addresses and street orientation. During the late 19th century, this area would have been characterized by heavy industry, grime, and generally be regarded as a poor location for retail businesses such as G.S. Blodgett & Co., which maintained a customer showroom. Nonetheless, it is safe to hypothesize that G.S. Blodgett & Co., using contemporary addresses, in fact originated at 191 College Street, currently occupied by the Burlington Free Press. In 1875, G.S. Blodgett & Co. printed a pamphlet referenced above, containing a print of their manufacturing building and showroom; it is the identical building to that which still currently stands at 191 College Street.24 Burlington’s 1884-85 City Directory confirms that the company’s address was 191 College Street and interestingly, that the proprietors were G.S. Blodgett and E.P. Manor.25 Sweet was not mentioned, nor was Manor after this date. Despite this, the City of Burlington’s online tax property database tool lists this building’s construction date as 1899, for the entire 185-195 College Street block.26 Research by David Blow in the second Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, suggests that 191 College Street was built in 1833, with an Italianate façade added in 1848 when it began to be used by G.S. Blodgett & Co. This may be; however, Blow also claims that a fourth story was added to this building in 1905.27 Sanborn’s 1889 Fire Insurance Map shows 33 (191) College to already be a four-story brick structure containing “tin ware” and “hardware.”28
By 1900, G.S Blodgett & Co. had significantly expanded their manufacturing capabilities at 191 College Street. Sanborn’s special green hazard box, drawn within the Blodgett building to identify its “tin-shop” had grown significantly since 1889.29 This expansion was presumptively not only to keep up with demand for their Blodgett and Sweet oven, but also to allow for the additional production of a new Portable Cabinet Oven. Still manufactured in Burlington at 191 College Street, this new patented portable cabinet oven was available in two different styles, single and double, six different sizes, and was capable of burning coal, wood, and for the first time, gas. The ventilation was reportedly perfect, dampers were built close to the stove’s bottom to regulate airflow, the outer walls were “thoroughly lined and packed with the latest air-packed asbestos,” which, in conjunction with the intentional air-space between the inner and outer walls created an oven with minimum conduction.30 The oven’s most innovative feature was its individual cabinets, which utilized the maximum amount of horizontal cooking space possible, remaining re-configurable with removable racks inside for different sized items. Additionally, each oven had at least a 6 inch high base built-in, so no foundation bricks were required and the design was claimed to be fireproof, an improvement from the original patented Blodgett and Sweet oven.
Fig. 7. View of Blodgett Oven inside its Maple Street factory, circa early 1940s. McAllister Collection, courtesy of Special Collections, University of Vermont. (More information about the former Blodgett Ovens factory on Maple Street can be read here.)
On April 8, 1903, G.S. Blodgett & Co. began constructing a new manufacturing facility located at 190-194 Bank Street in Burlington, less than a minute’s walk north from their College Street building, on the site of the former Dwyer Hack Company.31 The Bank Street building’s architect was W. R. B. Wilcox and he designed a four-story, brick “business block with few ornaments,” built in a substantial manner.32 The official history of Blodgett Ovens notes that in 1892, John S. Patrick, company secretary and treasurer, had purchased the company. Conversely, in 1903, John Holden was company president and Patrick was still Secretary and Treasurer, listed as such well into the First World War, then no more.33 It is possible that Patrick in fact had purchased the company, but remained Secretary and Treasurer. David Blow in the second Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods notes that G.S. Blodgett & Co. moved to Bank Street in 1903, but it was not until 1905 that the company moved into its 190-194 Bank Street manufacturing building where they would remain until 1945.34 A large manufacturing area existed on the building’s fourth floor, while hardware and kitchen showrooms were on each floor below that.35 An era for the company came to an end April 9, 1909 when G.S. Blodgett passed away from pneumonia in his Burlington home at the age of 90.36
The company continued to thrive, manufacture patented galvanized ovens, and diversify as the 20th century progressed. By 1919, the company had begun to manufacture gas friers [sic] and boilers, in addition to their “Blodgett Oven,” necessitating another expansion to now include 190-200 Bank Street.37 As automobiles gained popularity, G.S. Blodgett & Co. also began manufacturing nickel-plated parts at the Bank Street factory around 1921. Headlights, rims, bumpers, and anything else a person could think of was nickel plated or “mirror silvered” at Bank Street.38 G.S. Blodgett & Co. expanded one more time in 1926, maintaining their hardware, plumbing, and home goods store at 190-200 Bank Street, where they were “jobbers” in galvanized and black iron pipe, sewer pipe, and tile and retailers of gas and oil stoves, farm equipment, universal milkers, and Fairbanks-Morse gasoline engines, while their manufacturing operations moved to 50-53 Maple Street, gaining more space and closer proximity to rail lines.39 This expansion marked the point at which the company began to focus more and more on oven, “frier,” and boiler manufacturing for commercial as well as industrial applications rather than ovens for private homes.40
Shortly after Allied victory in the Second World War, G.S. Blodgett & Co. began construction of its current Lakeside Avenue manufacturing facility, directly west of the former Queen City Cotton Mill on Lakeside Avenue. The company hired Charles A. Congdon, a Burlington engineer and general contractor, and celebrated Burlington architects Freeman, French Freeman to construct the company’s current manufacturing facility at 50 Lakeside Avenue.41 The facility built was a large, modern, one-story factory building with walls of windows and a smaller waterfront office building (today, 32 Lakeside Avenue). Completed in early 1946 on what had once been farmland, then parcels owned by both the Queen City Cotton Company and J. J. Flynn, the new location offered space and direct access to rail lines, with a spur running the rear length of the factory for easy shipping and receiving. G.S. Blodgett & Co. continued to grow, but with an emphasis on commercial and industrial wholesale applications rather than hardware and plumbing; gone were the hardware showroom, kitchen accessories, and mop sticks. This Lakeside manufacturing facility was later expanded in 1947, then 1950, likely adding administrative offices to the western end of 50 Lakeside and 44 Lakeside and then an additional truck docking bay for freight on Lakeside Avenue, respectively, but further research is necessary to determine the precise dates, contractors, and architect, although it is likely Blodgett Ovens called on Freeman, French, Freeman to design these additions.42
The next cooking revolution at the G.S. Blodgett & Co. occurred in the early 1950s with its perfection of a pizza oven. Several sizes and models were offered, including the “999” high production model. Measuring 61 inches by 49 inches, it was capable of baking sixty 15-inch or eighty 12-inch pizzas every hour.43 Pizza ovens were followed by electric and gas fired convection ovens at Blodgett in the 1960s.44 The manufacture of its “Zephaire” line proved equally as successful. “Forced convection ovens heated air that is constantly circulated inside a closed chamber by means of a fan or blower, allowing heat to penetrate the goods more quickly and thus shorten cooking time and lower cooking temperatures.”45 A “standard” Zephaire convection oven, which sold for $1,114 in 1972 and measured 38 1/8 inches wide by 36 7/8 inches, weighing 625 pounds, was capable of baking 24 one-pound loaves of bread in 30 minutes at 340 degrees Fahrenheit.46
The G.S. Blodgett & Co., as it continued to focus exclusively on its ovens, friers, and boilers, eventually re-branded itself as simply “Blodgett Ovens,” which is how the company is known today. In the last years of the 20th century, Blodgett Ovens experienced perhaps its biggest changes since 1848. The company was purchased by the appliance giant Maytag in 1997, only to be resold to the Middleby Corporation of Illinois in 2001, which still owns the company today.
Despite its out-of-state ownership, Blodgett Ovens today is, more or less, manufacturing what G.S. Blodgett & Co. was producing over 150 years ago within its College Street Factory, just one and one-half miles away. Blodgett Ovens is still manufacturing in Burlington, despite intense heat, particularly on manufacturing companies, to remain competitive in the global marketplace. On any given day, the windows of Blodgett Ovens might be cracked just enough to hear the sounds of history; voices, metallic clanks and clangs, and the loud sounds of hammers, wrenches, and machinery as you walk or ride by on Burlington’s bike path where it crosses Lakeside Avenue, running directly behind Blodgett Ovens. The factories and stores of Blodgett Ovens have helped to define the city and its industry since its first patent oven in 1854. The manufacturing longevity of Blodgett Ovens, as well as its commitment to Burlington, is becoming increasingly rare. Nonetheless, today Blodgett Ovens continues its manufacturing legacy, helping to define the waterfront’s Lakeside Avenue and manufacturing past, present, and future.
Notes (Blodgett Ovens)
1. Hon. Hiram Carleton, ed., Genealogical and Family History of the State of Vermont. A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation (New York. Lewis Publishing Company, 1903), 1:316.
2. Advertisement, “Blodgett and Sweet’s Patent Galvanized Portable Oven,” Burlington Free Press, Friday Morning, February 23, 1855, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84023127/1855-02-23/ed-1/seq-3/ (accessed October 01, 2013).
3. “New Invention,” Burlington Free Press, Friday Morning, December 15, 1854, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84023127/1854-12-15/ed-1/seq-2/ (accessed October 12, 2013).
5. Advertisement, “Blodgett and Sweet’s Patent Galvanized Portable Oven.”
6. Some information about this stove can be read in a June 6th, 1860 article from the Vermont Phoenix of Brattleboro, Vermont, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98060050/1860-06-02/ed-1/seq-4/ (accessed September 18, 2013).
7. Advertisement, “The Economist for Wood or Coal,” Burlington Free Press, Friday Morning, November 5, 1858, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84023127/1858-11-05/ed-1/seq-3/ (accessed September 18, 2013).
8. Blodgett Ovens, “Blodgett Ovens History,” http://www.blodgett.com/history.htm (accessed October 2, 2013).
9. “Gas for Fuel,” Burlington Free Press, Friday Morning, October 12, 1860, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84023127/1860-10-12/ed-1/seq-2/ (accessed October 05, 2013).
11. Advertisement, “Howe’s Improved Weighing Scales,” Burlington Free Press, Friday Morning, August 03, 1860, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84023127/1860-08-03/ed-1/seq-4/ (accessed October 01, 2013).
12. Carleton, Genealogical and Family History, 316.
13. Obituary, “Major Gardner S. Blodgett,” Vermont Watchman & State Journal, Thursday, April 22, 1909, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86071719/1909-04-22/ed-1/seq-7/ (accessed October 05, 1013).
14. Carleton, Genealogical and Family History, 317.
15. Advertisement, “Drake’s Patent Automatic,” Burlington Free Press, Friday Morning, May 04, 1866, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1866-05-04/ed-1/seq-4/ (accessed October 10, 2013).
17. Sanborn Map Company, “Burlington. 1868,” Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, sheet 2. University of Vermont Special Collections, Burlington.
18. Burlington City Directory (Hiram S. Hart, 1866-68), 23.
19. Sanborn Map Company, “Burlington. 1894,” Sanborn Fire Insurance map, sheet 16. University of Vermont, Special Collections, Burlington.
20. G.S. Blodgett & Co., “Blodgett and Sweet’s Portable Galvanized Oven,” (Burlington, VT. 1875), 1.
21. G.S. Blodgett & Co., 2.
22. G.S. Blodgett & Co., 10.
23. “The Customs House and Post Office,” Burlington Free Press, Friday Morning, January 07, 1870, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1870-01-07/ed-1/seq-2/ (accessed October 17, 2013).
24. G.S. Blodgett & Co., back cover.
25. Burlington City Directory (Burlington Free Press Association, 1884-85), 15.
26. City of Burlington, Planning and Zoning Office, Property Database, http://property.burlingtonvt.gov/PropertyDetails.aspx?a=7453 9 (accessed October 15, 2013).
27. David J. Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods (Burlington, VT. 1990), 2:32-34. More information about this area available here. http://www.uvm.edu/~hp206/2012/ford/CollegeStE.html
28. Sanborn Map Company, “Burlington. 1889,” Sanborn fire Insurance Map, sheet 4. University of Vermont, Special Collections, Burlington.
29. Sanborn Map Company, “Burlington. 1900,” Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, sheet 22. University of Vermont, Special Collections, Burlington.
30. “The New Cabinet Portable Oven,” Burlington Free Press, Thursday, May 24, 1900, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1900-05-24/ed-1/seq-3/ (accessed October 15, 2013).
31. “New Business Block,” Burlington Free Press, Thursday, April 09, 1903, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1903-04-09/ed-1/seq-5/ (accessed October 11,2013).
32. Industrial Advertising Company of America, Illustrated Burlington (Kinderhook, NY. 1906), 27.
33. L.P. Waite & Co., Burlington City Directory (1903), rear color advertisement.
34. Burlington Free Press Association, Burlington City Directory (Burlington, VT. Burlington Free Press Printing Co.. 1905), 69.
35. Sanborn Map Company, Burlington Fire Insurance Maps (New York. 1906), map 23.
36. Obituary, Major Gardner S. Blodgett.
37. Manning’s Burlington Winooski and Essex Junction Directory (Springfield, MA. H. A. Manning Co., 1919), 21.
38. Advertisement, “Mr. Auto-Owner,” Middlebury Register, March 11, 1921.
39. Manning’s Burlington Winooski and Essex Junction Directory (Springfield, MA. H. A. Manning Co., 1926), 49.
40. Manning’s Burlington Winooski and Essex Junction Directory (Springfield, MA. H. A. Manning Co., 1926), rear cover advertisement.
41. Manning’s Burlington Winooski and Essex Junction Directory (Springfield, MA. H.A. Manning Co, 1946), 3. And Freeman, French, Freeman, “Blodgett,” microfilm collection, Project 346 Reel 7, print 5. University of Vermont, Special Collections, Burlington.
42. Freeman, French, Freeman, “Blodgett,” microfilm collection, Project 346 Reel 7, Project 974 Reel 20, Project 1315 Reel 28 are wonderful sources of original blueprints for Blodgett projects as well as others around Burlington.
43. G.S. Blodgett & Co., “More Profit From Pizza,” Company Brochure. Date Unknown (1960s?). University of Vermont, Special Collections, Blodgett Reference File, Burlington.
44. Blodgett Ovens, “Company History,” http://www.blodgett.com/history.htm (accessed October 19, 2013).
45. Blodgett Ovens, “Electric Zephaire Roll in Ovens,” Company Engineering Specifications. 1972, 12.
In the 1890s, Burlington's Lakeside Avenue was a rural, suburban part of the city; farms lined Lake Champlain and urban dwellers could take streetcars or carriages to parks or beaches and enjoy recreation at the Crescent Beach Country Club, located at the western end of present-day Harrison Avenue.1 By 1894, the Draper Corporation, a successful textile conglomerate and manufacturer of mill equipment based in Hopedale, Massachusetts, had selected Burlington to build their next textile factory, the Queen City Cotton Mill. Housing Burlington's largest employers and manufacturers for over a century, the mill's occupants have fashioned everything from cheesecloth to military armaments; unquestionably, this historic Lakeside Avenue complex has enjoyed a long, storied manufacturing history.
Numerous cotton and woolen mills existed and thrived throughout Vermont before 1894, including those in Burlington and Winooski, but none rivaled the scale or sheer production capacity of the Queen City Cotton Mill. In 1893/94, a new automatic loom design manufactured by the Draper Corporation had been perfected.2 Initially referred to as the "Northrop Loom" after one of its key inventors, J. H. Northrop, but eventually referred to as the "Draper Loom," its design completely revolutionized loom weaving. Partially as a case study and future model for prospective loom-buyers, the Draper Corporation sought to construct a mill that would utilize its new Draper Loom profitably. In the mid-1890s, Burlington lacked organized labor, but geographically had accesses to vast labor pools, coal and railroad freight rates were cheaper in comparison to Massachusetts, and the city was relatively close to major urban textile markets in places like New York and Boston.3 For the Draper Corporation, Burlington appeared to be a very favorable city to set up shop. Additionally, in May 1894, as an incentive during the vetting process after the Drapers had expressed interest in constructing a mill, the city voted to exempt (what would become) the Queen City Cotton Company from taxation for five years, beginning in 1894, and contribute $50,000 of the $350,000 (~$1.3 million and $9.2 million today, respectively) the Draper Corporation intended to spend on the project, provided the Queen City Cotton Company invested at least $200,000 in the mill and employed at least 200 people.4
By the following Tuesday, only days after the exemption was approved, the Draper Corporation had selected the site of their future mill. a 15-acre tract of land owned by Burlington real estate agent and insurance broker H. R. Conger "east of the railroad track and north of a street leading from Pine Street west [Lakeside Avenue], met all the necessary requirements."5 The mill's cotton manufacturing would require a great deal of water, so a spot on Lake Champlain was essential. Conger asked an undisclosed amount of money for his land and received the equivalent of its monetary value in Queen City Cotton stock, at his request. A little over one month later, Secretary of State Chauncey Brownell officially chartered the Queen City Cotton Company in Burlington, a mill that would "manufacture and deal in cotton and cotton goods of all descriptions and other textile fabrics, machinery, or any articles used or necessary for the production of textile fabrics." 6
With financial incentives in place from the city of Burlington, charters secured, and land purchased, contractor C. H. Sears of Fall River, Massachusetts began building the Queen City Cotton Mill at 128 Lakeside Avenue on July 22, 1894. 7 Only six months later, construction was astonishingly complete and J. H. Hines Jr., son of the mill manager, started the mill's massive coal-fired steam engine for the first time on Wednesday, January 30, 1895 at 2:45 p.m., allowing them to reach their maximum 76 revolutions per-minute.8 Queen City's notable men at this occasion included Vermont Governor U. A. Woodbury, Queen City Cotton's president, and Elias Lyman of Burlington, Vice President. Elected company directors were William J. Van Patten of Burlington, John H. Hines and William J. Kent of New Bedford, Massachusetts, Eben S. Draper and W. F. Draper Jr., of Hopedale, Massachusetts, and Albert A. Jenks of Pawtucket, Rhode Island (see Fig 1).9 As of Queen City's 1895 opening, J. H. Hines was the mill manager, C. B. Bennett was superintendent of carding and picking, T. A. Pray was superintendent of spinning, and A. N. Hersom was superintendent of weaving, slashing, drawing-in, and the cloth room.10
Architect F. P. Sheldon of Providence, Rhode Island had designed the Queen City Cotton Mill's main building to be "three hundred and two feet four inches by one hundred and eighteen feet six inches in size, of brick, three stories in height, with a basement under the picker room at the north end."11 The northern end of the mill's first floor contained a cotton-picking room, while the southwestern corner contained a machine shop. A detached, framed building measuring 190 long and 60 feet wide was built on the mill's front, southwestern corner to serve as a cotton storehouse, while a small, two-story, detached wooden office building was built on the mill's southeastern corner, both of which were nearly parallel to its southern Lakeside Avenue end.12 By 1912, an aboveground walkway connected the cotton storehouse to the main mill building.13 A railroad spur running north, adjacent to the detached cotton storeroom on its western side, existed in order to reach three loading platforms of the storeroom. one on each western corner, with a smaller one in the building's center and the mill's western boiler room (include Edwin scan). By 1910, this spur had been replaced by a pair running south. One track serviced the western storehouse bays, while an additional railroad spur curved east at the storehouse's northern end, terminating just before the engine and boiler rooms. This second spur was a coal trestle that allowed train cars to offload their coal to a storage area (pile) on the southwestern side of the spur, directly on the northern end of the cloth room.14
To the east of the coal trestle was a boiler room, measuring 29 feet by 49 feet. It contained five, 180 horsepower boilers fueled by soft coal and made by Corliss of Providence, Rhode Island.15 Sandwiched between these and the mill was the mill's engine room. Its 33 by 42 feet exterior held within it one of the stoutest Corliss steam engines ever built. Named "Gertrude," it produced 800 horsepower and had a flywheel 22 feet in diameter.16 Moving ever closer to the mill, a pump house was constructed to hold a 1,000 gallon Underwriter's steam pump. To produce its electricity, the Queen City Cotton Mill relied on a dynamo manufactured by the Collyer Machine Company of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Finally, a round chimney directly adjacent to the engine room's southern wall was built to a soaring height of 156 feet (see Fig. 26).17
For most, the textile and mechanical equipment of the Queen City Cotton Mill will be unfamiliar; it certainly is not common knowledge.18 However, by examining the machinery and its origins, the sheer scale of Queen City's textile manufacturing in 1895, as well as the influence the Massachusetts and Rhode Island directors had in all instances, will become apparent (see Fig. 8-12).
Looking inside, the mill's first floor included:
[T]hree openers, three intermediate lappers, three finishing lappers, a waste machine, and a thread extractor made by the Kiteon Machine Co. of Lowell, Mass.; Four slubbers with 264 spindles, eight intermediates with 816 spindles and 20 fine frames with 3360 spindles, made by the Woonsocket Machine and Press Company of Woonsocket, R.I.; 4640 cards and 96 deliveries made by the Whitin Machine Works of Whitinsville, Mass.; three cloth trimmers, made by the Atherton Machine Company of Lowell, Mass.; two cloth folders, made by Elinott & Hall of Worcester, Mass.; a cloth press made by the Boomer & Boschert Press Company of Syracuse, N.Y. The second floor is given up to the weaving and is fitted with 792 28 inch Draper Looms, with automatic warp stops, motion and filling changing device, manufactured by George Draper & Sons, Hopedale, Mass. On the third floor are 54 warp frames with 240 spindles each, making a total of 25, 920 spindles, made by the Fales & Jenks Machine Company of Pawtucket, R.I.; six spoolers with 810 spindles, eight warpers with creels, one twister with 220 spindles, made by the Hopedale Machine Company; two slashers and eight beaming-frames, made by the Lowell machine shops.19
Cloth production at the Queen City Cotton Mill began May 1, 1895, exclusively using Draper Looms.20 Once completed, the Queen City Cotton Mill was the largest mill in the state of Vermont. By July of the same year, 285 workers filled the mill and the mill itself underwent the first of many expansions. Additional spinning equipment and a humidifying system were introduced. Ideal relative humidity for cotton mills was between 30 and 70 percent. If the climate was too dry, raw threads would break and easily fray.21 Drawing water from Lake Champlain, Queen City Cotton sought to maintain these conditions by spraying a fine mist throughout the mill; this in turn also lowered ambient temperatures inside, as the Draper Looms weaved approximately 21 miles of fabric per day.22 Some sources, such as a 1915 publication by the Vermont Office of the Secretary of State, remark that the mill produced cheesecloth, sateens, twills, and other cottons for New York and Boston markets.23 Contrariwise, the 1894 "Model A" Draper Loom, used exclusively in Queen City, was "designed for the weaving of Print Cloth and Sheetings solely."24
Although the exact products manufactured are uncertain at this point and likely changed to reflect market demands, it is certain that the Model A Draper Loom was the reason the Queen City Cotton Mill was constructed in 1894. By the 1890s, a single mill weaver in New England was responsible for an average of eight looms.25 This meant that once every minute or two, a loom stopped and a weaver had to perform a complicated orchestration in order to "replenish the filling" of a loom. This multistep process included putting in new reserve shuttles, bobbins, and "sucking the filling through the hole."26 Until the weaver had essentially restocked the weaving loom, it remained stationary. The Draper Loom automated this process, allowing one worker to oversee an average of 16 looms. The Draper Looms essentially refilled the shuttle every five minutes, automatically stopping if the filler ran out or cotton broke. Despite a higher initial cost and skepticism raised by its relative complexity, the Draper Looms allowed for significant reductions in labor costs, which ultimately outweighed other concerns. As the 20th century unfolded, the Draper Loom became the world's most popular weaving loom. The Draper Corporation became the world's largest loom producer, a title it retained well into the 1960s.27
Regardless of how innovative its looms were, the Queen City Cotton Company's manufacturing history is one plagued by repeated, prolonged strikes, some of which began as early as six weeks after cloth production had started. A frustrated labor force that eventually was organized, combined with a global depression, significantly contributed to the mill's eventual dissolution. However, Queen City Cotton enjoyed decades of manufacturing success, partially evidenced by its numerous expansions. Despite regular labor unrest, the mill continued to grow its production capabilities for the duration of the 19th century. During the fall of 1899, Queen City Cotton shuttered its production to allow for the construction of a new two-story weaving room. This addition, also designed by F. P. Sheldon, extended beyond the building's southeastern end and was designed with a "saw-toothed" roof of north-facing windows, supported internally by 189 pillars resting on hardwood floors.28 Combined with 113 side windows, this addition allowed ample natural light, a production increase of 80 percent, and an additional 180 workers, bringing its workforce to over 500 people.29 At its completion, this saw toothed roofed weaving space became Vermont's largest single room. The completion of the 75,000-sq. ft. weaving room addition was celebrated with a party thrown by Queen City Cotton. Over half of the new addition was used as dance space; "mill officials were present and made all welcome by a cordial clasp of the hand and a hearty word."30 Also part of Queen City's 1899 expansion was a new, two-story cotton storehouse. This framed structure replaced the mill's original, allowing it to remain in the front, southwestern corner of the main mill building. This new storehouse had been built slightly larger, measuring 60 feet wide by 232 feet long, with central elevators and two loading platforms on its western side, preserving direct access to the railroad spur on the same flank.31 Furthermore, three additional boilers and two compound tandem horizontal condensing engines, each weighing 150,000 pounds and capable of generating 625 horsepower from Filer, Stowell & Co., of Milwaukee, Wisconsin replaced the mill's original Corliss.32 The year 1900 was also the first in which a framed storehouse appeared next to the vacant Ransom Hardware building on Briggs Street (Flynn Avenue Area). Here, a railroad spur ran almost to the building's eastern corner.33 March 29, 1900, only months after the mill's additions and celebrations, weavers returned to striking. Almost exactly one month prior to the strike, Burlington voters had approved a ten-year tax exemption for the mill. Despite this, Queen City Cotton had changed wages from being based on looms operated per day ($1.25 to $1.50 depending on the number), to piecework (10 cents per article). 34 Men who had been making $7.50 per week claimed that this change allowed them to earn only $6.33 per week.
The mill proved extremely successful in the first years of the 20th century, ranking as Burlington's highest taxpayer the year after its tax exemption expired. In 1917, the company paid over $553,000 in taxes ($10.1 million today).35 Even as one last major mill addition was undertaken in 1917, strikes persisted. During the fall, the third story roof of the Queen City Mill was was cut into four sections, allowing one section to be raised 5 feet at a time as the walls beneath it were slowly built up and floors and equipment shafts were laid below.36 It is unclear if F. P. Sheldon performed this addition, but it would have taken considerable experience in mill construction to accomplish this feat, especially considering mill work was not halted as the fourth story was built. The next ten years would mark the mill's most prosperous yet. An entire new floor on the main mill building allowed for the employment of over 600 people by the late 1920s. In 1925, the mill installed new machinery for the first time in decades to make women's wear and combed cotton yarn, discontinuing its manufacture of sateen and twill.37 Nonetheless, its boon was short-lived. The Great Depression devastated morale and production at the mill; strikes occurred regularly, wages were sporadically reduced, and the mill rarely ran full-time after 1930. Between the years 1928 and 1938, more than 40 percent of the looms in the state went out of production and even more were only run part-time.38 Cotton mills were hit the hardest. Of the four Vermont Cotton mills in operation in 1928, only the Brattleboro mill was still operating ten years later.39 According to David Blow in his first Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, a labor organizer arrived in Burlington during the spring of 1934. Shortly thereafter, on June 5, 1934, he had organized one of the mill's largest strikes, crippling the Cotton Company until the spring of 1937, when production halted completely for the last time.40 This proved to be the final thread for the Queen City Cotton Company.
Unruly labor in Burlington and a cheaper, unorganized workforce throughout the southern United States spelled the end for Queen City Cotton and countless other New England textile mills at the turn of the century. Since its inception, the Draper Loom was utilized as much in the South as it was in the North. Its inherent design allowed the exploitation of a mills' workforce almost two-fold. Indubitably this contributed to the continual strikes that ultimately beleaguered the Queen City Company. The Draper Loom, in comparison with its contemporaries, required fewer and less-skilled workers than ever before. Once northern New England's labor became too demanding, mill owners such as the Drapers overwhelmingly set up textile production in the South and never looked back, hoping to once again capitalize on a cheaper, unorganized labor pool as they had in Burlington.
After the dissolution of the Queen City Cotton Company, its buildings at 128 Lakeside Avenue sat unused until 1941, when the E. B. and A. C. Whiting Company purchased the mill for $77,650 to use for latex-fiber manufacturing.41 However, this was not a new lease on life for the mill. Despite Whiting's plans to run its Tulatex operations out of the factory, the buildings essentially served as half-full storehouses, until the United States Government seized the complex from the company in July of 1943 for essential wartime production.42 Bell Aircraft began leasing the mill for its ordinance division and was first mentioned in Burlington's City directory as located at Lakeside Avenue in 1944, manufacturing gun mounts for the Army and Navy. In the same year, employment at the mill reached 2,700 people, its highest number ever.43 By 1946, Bell Aircraft was manufacturing peacetime goods such as small gasoline engines, automatic coin changers, and "special machinery."44 By February of the same year, Bell Aircraft decided to purchase the mill for $600,000, only to sell it to General Electric less than one year later for a price of $675,000.45 However, in 1948 Burlington's City Directory still listed Bell Aircraft at 128 Lakeside Avenue. General Electric was not listed at the address until one year later. For the first nine years, General Electric's Lakeside Facility was part of its Aircraft Products Department, "producing bomber armament turrets and a number of other electro-mechanical parts."46 Like Queen City Cotton, General Electric began expanding its manufacturing almost immediately after beginning production. In 1952, the company purchased a building on Maple street to be used for the manufacture of its 20mm (M-61) Vulcan Gun and missile and re-entry parts. In a 1964 company pamphlet, General Electric published that Burlington's Lakeside Avenue was a facility for its Missile and Armament Department.47 Multi-barrel rapid-fire weapons systems became the dominant focus of General Electric at Lakeside Avenue by 1967.48 By 1969, over 3,700 people were employed by General Electric at Lakeside.49 A little over a decade later, in 1978, Lakeside Avenue included machine shops, an engineering development lab with Adage computer display, R&D prototype manufacturing, heat treating, welding, deburring, "dome trainer," a plating room, and paint booths, all of which were utilized in the manufacture of the land based Vulcan Air Defense system, the EX-83 for the Navy, and the GAU-8/A Avenger, mounted on A-10 aircraft.50 Well into the 1990s, General Electric's Armament and Electrical Systems departments continued to grow in Burlington. In 1993, Martin Marietta purchased General Electric's aerospace division, merging with Lockheed Martin one year later. Lockheed ultimately sold its Lakeside buildings to General Dynamics in 1997 for $3.7 million.51 The company virtually eliminated its armament production capabilities at Lakeside by the late 1990s to focus on technology. Ultimately, General Dynamics vacated 128 Lakeside Avenue in 2010, taking its 450 employees with it to occupy vacant (and cheaper) manufacturing space owned by IBM in Williston, Vermont.
The Queen City Cotton Company's main mill building remains mostly true to its 1917 form, however all of the mill's exterior buildings, including the two-story cotton storehouse and 75,000-sq. ft. weaving room, have been demolished in order to create approximately 800 parking spaces.52 Since the dawn of the automobile, the acres of empty space directly south of the mill were used for parking. Today, this area south of the mill is still a vast, paved expanse that is half-full of new cars for local auto dealerships as well as overflow parking for a nearby college. Mitigation requirements for the loss of the mill's significant historic structures included a perimeter outline of the weaving room in paved blocks, placed flush with the parking lot surface and an interpretive sign located along the sidewalk that parallels Lakeside, southwest of the Main mill's façade.53 Today, known as the "Innovation Center of Vermont," the main mill building exemplifies adaptive re-use. Although it is no longer used for manufacturing, 128 Lakeside Avenue is occupied by a myriad of commercial businesses and medical facilities, with seldom vacancy. The mill has an Energy Star rating of 93, has reduced its natural gas consumption by 60 percent over the last five years, and utilizes geothermal cooling, and a sophisticated computer controlled ventilation and lighting system, and until 2010, a Department of Defense-approved security system.54 Although Draper's cotton looms have long since stopped at the Queen City Cotton Mill, this historic structure has and continues to play a pivotal role in the city of Burlington and the lives of its people, defining Lakeside Avenue, its neighborhoods, and a long, significant chapter in Burlington's manufacturing past.
Notes (Queen City Cotton)
1. More Information about the Lakeside area at the turn of the century found here. http://www.uvm.edu/~hp206/2012/bosworth/crescentbeach.html (accessed October 15, 2013).
2. More Information about the Draper Corp. and Hopedale, MA found here. http://www.blackstonevalleycorridor.org/downloads/tours/mass_tours/hopedale.pdf and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draper_Corporation (accessed October 18, 2013).
3. "Cotton Mill Meeting," Burlington Free Press, Thursday, May 17, 1894, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1894-05-17/ed-1/seq-1/ (accessed September 18, 2013).
4. "Progressive Burlington," Vermont Phoenix, Friday, May 11, 1894, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98060050/1894-05-11/ed-1/seq-3/ (accessed September 23, 2013).
6. "Queen City Cotton Company," Burlington Free Press, Thursday, June 28, 1894, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1894-06-28/ed-1/seq-1/ (accessed October 10, 2013).
7. "Starting an Engine," Burlington Free Press, Thursday, January 31, 1895.
9. "Queen City Cotton Company" and "An Unqualified Success," Burlington Free Press, Thursday, August 8, 1895, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1895-08-08/ed-1/seq-1/ (accessed October 19, 2013).
10. "Starting an Engine."
13. Sanborn Map Company, "Burlington. 1912," (New York. 1912), 31.
14. "Starting an Engine."
18. Numerous books exist on the specifics of textile machinery and the cotton milling process including American Cotton Handbook by Gilbert Merrill (NY:1949) and Weaving Machinery for Cotton, Silk, Woolen Worsted, and Special Fabrics by Crompton and Knowles Loomworks (1923).
19. Ibid." This article also contains more information about machine shop equipment.
20. "An Unqualified Success."
21. Louis W. Steponaitis, Textile Industry in Vermont. 1790-1973; Its Development Diffusion and Decline (master's thesis, University of Vermont, 1975), 93.
22. "To Increase the Plant."
23. Office of the Secretary of State, Vermont Bureau of Publicity, Industrial Vermont (Essex Junction, VT. 1915), 52.
24. Draper Corporation, Labor Saving Looms, 2nd ed. (Hopedale, MA. 1905) This is an indispensable source of information on the Draper Loom.
25. William Mass, "Mechanical and Organizational Innovation. The Drapers and the Automatic Loom," Business History Review 63 (Winter 1989). 893.
27. Ibid., 927.
28. "New Queen City Cotton Mill," Burlington Free Press, Thursday, October 26, 1899, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1899-10-26/ed-1/seq-8/ (accessed October 11, 2013).
30. "Employers to Employees," Burlington Free Press, Thursday, November 23, 1899, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1899-11-23/ed-1/seq-5/ (accessed October 16, 2013).
31. Charles Edwin Allen Papers, "Land Papers. misc, relating to Rutland Railroad underpass across Allen land, Lakeside Avenue; 19-08-1910," University of Vermont Special Collections, Burlington, folder 3, carton 16; blueprint. And "New Queen City Cotton Mill."
32. "New Queen City Cotton Mill."
33. Sanborn Map Company, "Burlington. 1900," (New York. Sanborn Map Company), 23.
34. "Exempted From Taxation," Burlington Free Press, Thursday, April 27, 1899, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1899-04-27/ed-1/seq-5/ (Accessed October 18, 2013) and "Two Small Strikes," Burlington Free Press, Thursday, March 29, 1900, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1900-03-29/ed-1/seq-2/ (accessed October 18, 2013).
35. "Increase in Grand List," Burlington Free Press, Thursday June 21, 1917.
36. "Adding a Story," Burlington Free Press, Thursday, September 06, 1917, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1917-09-06/ed-1/seq-5/ (accessed September 20, 2013).
37. David J. Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, vol. I (Burlington, VT. Chittenden County Historical Society, 1990), 87.
38. Steponaitis, 112.
40. Blow, 87.
41. Burlington Free Press, "Tulatex Corp. anticipates use of old Q.C. Cotton Building," Unknown date. University of Vermont, Special Collections, "Queen City" reference folder, Burlington.
42. Peter Carlough, Bygone Burlington. A bicentennial barrage of battles, boats, buildings, & beings (Burlington, VT. Burlington Bicentennial Committee, 1975), 57.
43. Blow, 88.
44. Manning's Burlington Winooski and Essex Junction Directory (Springfield, MA. H. A. Manning Co., 1946), 11.
45. Blow, 88.
46. General Electric, "Lakeside Avenue Plant," (Open House Pamphlet. 1978), 2. General Electric Reference Folder, Special Collections, University of Vermont.
47. Manning's Burlington, Winooski and Essex Junction Directory, 1964, 165.
48. General Electric.
49. Dan McLean, "General Dynamics Pulling Out of Burlington," Burlington Free Press, October 17, 2009.
50. General Electric.
52. The Vermont Division of Historic Preservation has documented most of these buildings; especially the weaving room. Their files are open to the public.
53. More information about the demolition of the weaving room can be found within file. COA 01-032A, at Burlington's planning and Zoning Office, City Hall. These files are open to the public.
54. Ken Picard, "Inside Burlington's Biggest, Top-Secret Office Space," Seven Days, June 09, 2010 and Innovation Center of Vermont, http://www.innovationcenterofvt.com/energy.html (accessed October 22, 2013).
The Lakeside Development: Factory Housing for the Queen City Cotton Mill
By Kyle Obenauer
Figure 1: View of H.R. Conger's Lakeside Land, blue marking "sold," circa 1893. Courtesy Special Collections, University of Vermont.
Throughout the early- to mid-19th century, southern New England mill owners relied on workforces largely comprised of young, single women, mainly from rural areas, to work in their textile factories. These industrialists wanted to avoid the sordid mill conditions that had defined English textile factories, so many constructed respectable dormitories located on the mill grounds to ensure the moral integrity of these women was upheld and enriched as they toiled. An eagerness for profits quickly prevailed over the desire by mill owners to create a sort of utopian mill. Conditions worsened and workforces became resentful, organized, and unafraid of collective bargaining. By the end of the 19th century, mill owners in places like Lowell, Massachusetts and Pawtucket, Rhode Island were looking to places like Vermont for new pools of labor.
As soon as the Queen City Cotton Company began construction of its mill in 1894, real estate speculators like Burlington's H.R. Conger and S. P. Saxe purchased vacant farmland directly adjacent to it where they, alongside other entrepreneurs, built tenements and rental properties for the mill's workers. David Blow and T.D. Seymour, in a May 1972 Chittenden County Historical Society Bulletin, suggest that Saxe built two 24-unit tenements at 42 and 46 Conger Avenue in 1894 where a unit could be rented for $12 per month (see Fig. 3-5). These tenements are the oldest in the neighborhood, used today as rental apartments. A February 6, 1896 Burlington Free Press article noted that the Queen City Company bought land for a "Lakeside Park addition" from Conger for $500, but there were no specifics. Before this article was written, Conger published a map, possibly in early 1894 or 1895, of available lots for sale within his Lakeside Park area; these parcels of land were directly southwest of the mill (see Fig. 1-2).1 On this map, many of the plots that would not be developed until 1899 or later by the Queen City Cotton Company are already marked as "sold," indicated by blue. Nonetheless, it is possible that the Queen City Cotton Company purchased this land from Conger when it secured the mill site, but did not develop it immediately, or possibly "sold" markings simply meant the land was not for sale at the time of publication. Further research is required. Nonetheless, these Lakeside plots were eventually purchased at a price of $350 to $500 per lot, depending on the parcel.2
During its initial construction phase, the Queen City Cotton Company made no allowances for worker housing, despite the Draper Corporation's experience with factory housing in Hopedale, Massachusetts. Those who worked at Queen City Cotton likely lived wherever they could, staying in tenements, with friends, or with family, often stuck in dirty, noisy, crowded, dangerous, and unsanitary conditions. It is hard to say with certainty where the majority of the mill's workforce lived and under what conditions; these questions are perhaps beyond the scope of this narrative, but undeniably important to answer. An electric rail line operated by the Burlington Traction Company did run almost the length of Burlington's Pine Street, servicing areas as far away as Winooski over the course of Queen City Cotton's manufacturing, ostensibly allowing dozens or even hundreds to commute to the mill each day from Lakeside Avenue's outlying areas (see Fig. 1- Pine Street).
After its preliminary years proved successful, the Queen City Cotton Company expanded its manufacturing capabilities in 1899. This building phase also included the construction of a planned housing development exclusively for its Queen City workers, the first factory housing built in Vermont. Eventually referred to as the Lakeside Development, this family-oriented factory neighborhood was laid out in a square with Lakeside Avenue functioning as the only means of ingress and egress, with railroad tracks to the east and Lake Champlain to the west each effectively acting as boundaries. A small number of alternating and repeating duplex designs were built along Conger, Harrison, Wright, Central, and, eventually, Lakeside Avenues, although none of Lakeside appears on Sanborn's Fire Insurance Maps until 1906. Queen City Cotton published a bilingual promotional pamphlet about the mill and its factory neighborhood in 1900. Written both in English and French, "Burlington, Vermont: The Advantages it Offers the Workingman's Family," included pictures of Lakeside's schools, nursery, stores, first aid station, beaches, and local churches as well as the mill itself, workers, and equipment. Touted as a suburban oasis, the Lakeside Development included sidewalks, shade trees, a public green space, a baseball team, billiards, a barber, tailor, plumbing, heat, and electricity (see Fig. 6-19).3 In reality, hundreds of people and horses were forced to cross the busy railroad tracks leading to and from the mill everyday, some of whom were seriously injured and killed. Furthermore, drinking water from Lake Champlain was often tainted by industry and sewage, making it unsafe to drink. Thus, conditions at Lakeside were often as dangerous and unpleasant as life in urban areas. Duplexes on Lakeside Avenue were built most recently for mill foreman and supervisors, several around 1920. Burlington's Kieslich Construction Company built a greater part of the duplexes throughout Lakeside, including a model at 71-73 Lakeview Terrace, above and away from the industrial drudgery and grime of the waterfront (see Fig. 20).4
In 1900, about 100 French-Canadian families lived in the Lakeside Development.5 It is safe to assume that many of their children also worked in the mill. Numerous accounts and pictures can be found of children under the age of 16 working at the Queen City Cotton Mill.6 A social club for French-Canadians called the "Saint Johns Club" existed during the mill's operation within Lakeside and is still popular today on Central Avenue. A Catholic church on present day Flynn Avenue, St. Antoine de Padue Council of L'Union de St. Jean Baptiste, was constructed between April and October of 1903 on Lakeside Park land donated by Queen City Cotton.7 Unsurprisingly, Burlington's City Directories sporadically listed the exact names of those who resided, in addition to worked, within the Lakeside Development, however it is safe to say that many were foreign-born.
When the Queen City Mill closed its doors for the last time in 1937, the company gave those employees and tenants who resided in its Lakeside housing first opportunity to buy the company's homes. Henry W. Cooke set up a temporary real estate office at 37 Conger Avenue to sell "5 cottages or single dwellings, 32 double dwellings, 2 three family dwellings, 2 four family dwellings, 2 twelve family blocks, and 2 commercial properties," offering mortgages at up to 75 percent of the purchase price (see Fig. 21-23).8 Most who had the opportunity to purchase their home did so. Today, the Lakeside Development is a National Register Historic District where some homes remain in a part of the same family that originally bought them over 60 years ago. This brief account of the Queen City Cotton Company's factory housing is not intended to be an exhaustive account of the Lakeside neighborhood and the hundreds of hard working families who have and continue to live there. Most of these homes remain true to their original design, with small exterior modifications such as chimneys and porches, but overall, it is still a beautiful, predominantly working-class neighborhood full of character that, together with the Queen City Cotton Mill, defines now, just as it has historically, a notable, permanent chapter in Burlington's manufacturing past, while continuing to positively contribute to its character and people (see Fig. 24-26).
Addendum: This last sentiment will hopefully prove of great consequence as Burlington considers the future of a proposed thoroughfare commonly referred to as the "Champlain Parkway." More information can be obtained from the following resources online, as well as from Burlington's Department of Planning and Zoning, located within City Hall:
Fig. 2: View of Central Avenue looking south, September 2013. Kyle Obenauer, photographer.
Fig. 3: View of 42 Conger Avenue looking southeast, October 2013. Kyle Obenauer, photographer.
Fig. 4: View of 42 Conger Avenue looking east, October 2013. Kyle Obenauer, photographer.
Fig. 5: View of 46 Conger Avenue looking east, October 2013. Kyle Obenauer, photographer.
Fig. 6: View of Lakeside Park 46 Conger Avenue looking southwest, October 2013. Kyle Obenauer, photographer.
Fig. 7: View of Queen City baseball team, circa late 1920s-early 1930s. From Queen City Cotton's Burlington, Vermont: the Advantages it Offers a Workingman's Family, courtesy of Special Collections, University of Vermont.
Fig. 8: View of Queen City Store looking northwest, circa late 1920s-early 1930s. From Queen City Cotton's Burlington, Vermont: the Advantages it Offers a Workingman's Family, courtesy of Special Collections, University of Vermont.
Fig. 9: View of former store at 37 Conger Avenue looking northwest, October 2013. Kyle Obenauer, photographer.
Fig. 10: View of Conger Avenue looking southwest, October 2013. Kyle Obenauer, photographer.
Fig. 11: View of former Conger Avenue tenement looking southwest, October 2013. Kyle Obenauer, photographer.
Fig. 12: View of Queen City nursery looking east, circa 1900. From Queen City Cotton's Burlington, Vermont: the Advantages it Offers a Workingman's Family, courtesy of Special Collections, University of Vermont.
Fig. 13: View of nursery at 28 Conger Ave. looking east, October 2013. Kyle Obenauer, photographer.
Fig. 14: View of nursery and identical neighboring duplexes looking northeast, October 2013. Kyle Obenauer, photographer.
Fig. 15: View of Queen City nursery's backyard and interior, circa 1900. From Queen City Cotton's Burlington, Vermont: the Advantages it Offers a Workingman's Family, courtesy of Special Collections, University of Vermont.
Fig. 16: View of 65-67 Central Avenue looking northwest, circa early 1900s. From Queen City Cotton's Burlington, Vermont: the Advantages it Offers a Workingman's Family, courtesy of Special Collections, University of Vermont.
Fig. 21: View of 1937 sale flyer showing 45 and 57 Lakeside Avenue, circa 1937. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Vermont.
Fig. 22: View of 45 Lakeside Avenue looking east, October 2013. Kyle Obenauer, photographer.
Fig. 23: View of 57 Lakeside Avenue looking west, October 2013. Kyle Obenauer, photographer.
Fig. 24: View of 41-43 Central Avenue looking southwest, October 2013. Kyle Obenauer, photographer.
Fig. 25: View of Harrison Avenue looking southeast, October 2013. Kyle Obenauer, photographer.
Notes (Lakeside Development)
1. H. R. Conger, “Map of Lakeside Park Situated at Burlington, Vermont,” (Unknown publisher and date. Copyright 1893 H.R. Conger, but Queen City Cotton Mill is shown, so perhaps after 1894), inside map. University of Vermont, Special Collections, Burlington.
2. Conger, inside right flap.
3. Sanborn Map Company, “Burlington: 1906,” Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, sheet 37.
4. David J. Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, vol. 3 (Burlington, VT: Chittenden County Historical Society, 2003), 71. David Blow, in his third Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, notes that the model home at 71-73 Lakeview Terrace was constructed in 1906, however the Burlington City Property Database lists the year of construction as 1899. The earlier date seems more plausible, but both are uncertain and more research is necessary.
5. “Church at Lakeside Park,” Burlington Free Press, Thursday, May 17, 1900,Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1900-05-17/ed-1/seq-8/ (accessed October 20, 2013). Nadia Schreiber Smith at the University of Vermont has previously collected an unpublished oral history, which she recorded, of many of the French-Canadian families and their descendants who lived within the Lakeside Development.
6. “State News,” Middlebury Register, December 24, 1909, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn93063557/1909-12-24/ed-1/seq-4/ and “City News,” Burlington Free Press, Thursday, May 13, 1909, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1909-05-13/ed-1/seq-5/ (accessed October 21, 2013).
7. David J. Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, vol. I (Burlington, VT: Chittenden County Historical Society, 1990), 88 and “Church at Lakeside Park” and “City News,” Burlington Free Press, Thursday, April 23, 1903, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1903-04-23/ed-1/seq-5/ and “Street Extension,” Burlington Free Press, Thursday, October 29, 1903, Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1903-10-29/ed-1/seq-8/ (accessed October 20, 2013).
8. H.M. McIntosh