Wilton

The importance of the mill

The repurposing, revitalizing and restoring of Wilton’s mills

wilton, fryes measure mill, harley and kim savage

wilton, fryes measure mill, harley and kim savage

Mills are the backbone of a country, an economic anchor for a state’s financial ship, and the glue holding communities together. A bold statement you may say, but try to imagine life without them, without the millions of products they produce and the hard cold cash they create. Pretty bleak!

As a town like Wilton celebrates 275 years of existence, it is important to begin to understand the foundation around which everything was built. In a word: mills. From an enterprise in the 1700’s that seems totally alien today — a starch mill — to a research/production center with clean rooms developing medical and aerospace equipment, the concept of community being anchored by the stability of a manufacturing base still exists.

Continuous. Stable. Profitable. Relevant. These are some of the adjectives that all of Wilton’s mills over the past several centuries tried to incorporate into their business strategies. Many failed. Some survived. The failures were only in name, however. The buildings often are repurposed as housing. Hillsborough Mills on the Wilton/Milford line is a great example of how an existing mill structure can be saved when private enterprise and government funding come together. Revitalization also occurs. Like a phoenix arising from the ashes Label Art was born from the remains of a mill that had created quality cloth for decades in downtown Wilton.

Finally we come to the third “R” in our trilogy, which is Restoration. This of course leads to the doorstep of Frye’s Measure Mill. 200 years ago, the site was a fulling and carding mill for cloth. In 1858 it was repurposed as a water-powered woodworking mill. For the past half-century it has been lovingly restored, been named a National Register of Historic Places Property, and strives to remain relevant in today’s chaotic world.

Harley Savage owns and operates Frye’s Measure Mill in Wilton.

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