It harnessed the power of Yellow Creek to operate the machinery that processed wool collected from sheep farmers throughout the surrounding valley.
While ownership of the woolen mill passed through several hands during the 1800s, it operated continuously from 1806 right up until the 1960s.
After a closure that lasted some thirty years, the mill was bought by the grandson of one of the earlier owners, who restarted production of the fine woolen blankets and garments, for which Waterside Woolen Mill had become renowned.
The current owners, local residents Dennis and Lisa Wile, bought the mill in 2009 and have kept up its production, using traditional manufacturing machines, tools and methods, thus making it one of the oldest operating woolen mills in the USA.
Upon first arriving to photograph the mill, I left my camera in the car and spent the first hour just walking around trying to make sense of its dark, pervasive chaos.
Strewn throughout the shadowy mill were pieces of furniture, industrial machinery, hand tools, fabric and office equipment, – some broken, some operable, most rusted. I could hardly believe that this is a facility that still produces wool. But, among all the mayhem, somehow it does.
A two hundred year old building such as this presents special opportunities for photography. The depth of the windows, the rich texture of the crumbling plaster on the walls, the cracked wooden floorboards, the way the light and shadow changes, as the sun moves around the building during the course of the day, all require the photographer to pay careful attention to seeing compositions as they appear and disappear from one moment to the next.
Because of the ever-changing light, I moved regularly between the mill’s four floors, studying how the light was moving, watching the shadows change shape and creep across the ancient floors.
Even after almost eight hours spent shooting in the mill, I felt I was only just beginning to get the feel of the place, only just starting to see it properly.
I know I will have to go back and explore its extraordinary photographic potential further.