Friday, January 17, 2014

Shoeing and Booting Around the Harding and Winter Manufacturing District

The Harding & Winter Street Manufacturing District contains brick factory buildings built between 1870 and 1898. With the decline of manufacturing in Worcester in the 1970’s has left many areas fragmented, however this area is pretty well preserved from its heyday.  This area is right next to the Blackstone Canal built in 1828, matter of fact the area where Harding Street is located was filled in to create the street. This area was a major boot and shoe manufacturing area in Worcester. That industry grew to be the 3rd largest industry in Worcester. In 1885 the factories employed just over 2,600 people with a quarter of them working in the Heywood and Walker factories.  The Hill Envelope Company, with its revolutionary envelope machine employed many folks as well.

A lot of you will wonder what is Willie doing. These places are just buildings and not particularly good looking buildings to boot. To me it is about the history and I find thru the pictures and walking around they tell a story of the past. I can see those 2300 workers smoking cigarettes, waiting to get thru the door, holding their lunches  to begin the day of work. 

JH & GM Walker Shoe Company


The JH and GM Walker Shoe Factory was built in 1870 and enlarged in 1879 and then again in 1895. The company was formed in 1862 when the two Walker brothers left their father’s firm. They became so successful, they opened a tannery in Chicago as well. They were known for their heavy boots which where very popular in the American West. The company served as a training ground for future entrepreneurs  for at least 23 independent shoemakers. In 1888 the Walker Company was bought out and continued to make the Walker Boot in a different location.  Today it appears this building lies dormant and unoccupied.

JH & GM Walker Shoe Company

JH & GM Walker Shoe Company

 The Watchusett building was built in 1879 and also enlarged multiple times. Samuel R Heywood was its original owner, who was also a shoe and boot manufacturer. They made a finer grade of shoes and by 1899 dropped making boots and concentrated on shoes.  The firm remained in the family which they continued making shoes into 1940, when they ceased manufacturing operations. They did continue to sell shoes until 1961.

Wachusett Building

Wachusett Building

 The Hill Envelope Company building  was built in 1890. It all began with Dr Russell Hawes who invented an envelope folding machine in 1846. This machine was the first practical envelope folding machine in the US. Hawes was a physician. One has to wonder where his mind was when taking care of his patients.  In 1866 Wade H Hill entered in business with this guy Devoe who was a decedent of the Hawes family. By 1869 Hill took over the entire business and renamed it the WH Hill Co. They were serveral other envelope making companies in Worcester which were all merged into one company which form the US Envelope Company.

Today this place is place to come home to at night after working all day.

JH & GM Walker Shoe Company

Hill Envelope Company

 The Worcester Stained Glass Works was built in 1898. This was founded by David Welch who received his training in Boston. He died in 1910 and the firm continued under Edgar P Welch and William Massey.  Among their more notable works was the glass for St Anne’s and Park Street Congregational Churches.

Today the building houses Bocado, an authentic Spanish Restaurant and Wine Bar.  Based on Yelp and Trip Advisor they get pretty good ratings.

Worcester Stained Glass Works

This is a view looking down Harding St. which once was occupied by the Blackstone Canal. The Blackstone Canal was built in 1828 that connected Providence, RI to Worcester, MA. This provided Worcester a connection with the Atlantic Ocean via Providence. It was replaced with the coming of the railroad, but has a rich history all to itself.

Blackstone Canal Harding St

This place has absolutely nothing to do with this historic district, other than it is on Harding St. I just like the ghost sign on the side of the building.

Harding Street Ghost Sign

Another building on Harding St that is not part of the historic district is the Muslin Underwear Company. That is its historic name because they were the first tenants in the building in 1910. By 1912 Pobolinski & Sons were the tenants and their name is on the building. By 1922 Carling Blower Company occupied the place and then Victor Washing Fluid in 1942. Since 1956 it has been used for storage and light manufacturing.

What is Muslin Underwear I asked myself. To the internet and found out muslin is a type of cotton cloth used in luxurious garments. It was thought to have originated in Bengal . Not having a clue where Bengal was I had to look that up. Right by India, hence the Bengal Tiger, but they didn't wear muslin. Today Bengal is Bangladesh and West Bengal.

Worcester Muslin Underwear Company

That completes this tour. Heres a general overhead map view of the area.

Harding Winter St

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