Saturday, March 29, 2008

new source of energy

The effective use of electricity had already been demonstrated locally when in 1894 the city street railway line adopted it. As these cars rattled about the town, the woolen mills directory pondered the possibilities of the dynamo for their own use. In 1899 the mill began receiving supplemental power from the local electric light company and in the following year installed its own dynamo to "add very materially to the capacity of the mills."
At the same time, embedded in a series of proposed amendments to the company's charter was a provision giving the mill the right to dispose of any portion of its power by contract, lease, or sale. This clause anticipated the prospect of developing on nearby property an electric power plant connected to a dam on the Rivanna. Several experts were called in but when they estimated the cost to be about $100,000 the plan was shelved. In 1909, however, when contract negotiations with the electric light company broke down, an "oil engine" was purchased to provide light and power.
With electricity gradually assuming more and more of the burden, the mill approached the war years still utilizing water power but gradually adopting the new source of energy. --Harry Poindexter

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

achievements of the community

Pictured above, railroad bridge crossing Moores Creek from the shoulder of Pireus to the base of Monticello.

The spirited interest of Albemarle County people arose primarily from the consideration that the mill was one of the few local means of bringing money into the area. Not only in Charlottesville but in surrounding cities this fact was appreciated. Public support found ready expression in newspapers of the day. The mill stood forth as a symbol of a new industrialism. Again and again its success was heralded as proof' of the advantages offered by Charlottesville for factories of all sorts. In a vital sense, the mill belonged to the people; its achievements became the achievements of the community.--Harry Poindexter

We are currently labeling 1059 4x6" prints for delivery to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. While the County of Albemarle and the City of Charlottesville have been somewhat slow to recognize the value of the historic resources extant in the Woolen Mills village, the State has been extremely supportive as we pursue recognition for this community of workers who contributed mightily to the Commonwealth for one-hundred years.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

the rise of the railroads was not an unmixed blessing

water from the Rivanna was impounded by the dam, shunted into the mill race, routed beneath the mill driving an underwater turbine which mechanically powered all mill machinery. The water was discharged into Moore's creek, pictured above.

During the decade of the 1850's, the national economy was in a period of expansion unequaled in its history. The countryside rang with the sounds of hammers driving down new railroad tracks; commerce, foreign and domestic, multiplied; and dents were made in the nation's natural resources. The panic of 1857 disrupted prosperity but only temporarily. Yet in the woolen industry the decade was one of relative backwardness. Wool production increased only from 70,000,000 to 86,000,000 pounds annually, in spite of a population growth of thirty-five percent. The number of mills in production declined in the face of unfavorable conditions. Those being a reduction in tariff duties on woolen imports in 1846 and inability to match foreign developments in wool-making machinery. For the multitude of small mills about the country, the rise of the railroads was not an unmixed blessing for they broadened the stream of goods coming either from the large eastern mills or from importations; this, in turn, served to frustrate and complicate the attempts of local establishments to expand.--Harry Poindexter

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