I was able to spend some time in an old mill building in Lowell, MA about a year ago. I was lucky to be with a photography group and the National Park allowed us into the building about an hour before it opened. That gave us an opportunity to shoot the looms close up and get some interesting detail and perspective.
You can see in the first picture the rows of looms that stretch for 40-50 feet in one of these buildings. Everything is run by belts and pulleys where the metal and wood have been polished smooth which gives them a beautiful patina.
Here you see the wooden pulleys with the leather straps that connect the machinery to the main drive shaft that is in another part of the building. These mills took advantage of the river power in Lowell to provide cheap energy to drive all these buildings. Locks and canals diverted the Merrimack River to work all these buildings.
It’s amazing the intricacies that went into these manufacturing plants. I think we’ve forgotten just how complicated what we would now consider the simple mechanical equipment that was used back then. It was anything but simple and required these mill rooms to be maintained at high humidity to prevent the cotton thread from breaking, making work extremely uncomfortable for the workers.
If you ever get a chance to tour these old facilities, jump at the chance. This particular building is the Boott Mills in the Lowell National Historic in Lowell, MA.