Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Chatham / Clifton Mills, 1880
Berks and Howard Streets, Philadelphia PA 19122
(southeast corner, east to Hope Street)

Carmen A. Weber, Irving Kosmin, and Muriel Kirkpatrick, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).

The mills on this block were continuously operated in the textile industry from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. According to a Hexamer insurance map of the mill in 1877 1 the buildings were erected about 25 years earlier, placing them at mid-century. On the earliest survey, undated, 2 the main mill building was of brick, one story with a central clearstory, running over 200 feet along Howard Street. The picking and carding rooms were smaller, separate buildings in the back. The owner was Thurlow and Sons and the mill produced woolen goods, with carding, spinning, weaving, and dyeing operations.
On the 1877
3 survey Paul Thurlow was listed as owner and the structures had changed little. However, there were six tenants in the building as well as Chatham Mills. There was the Asbestos Fibre Company, Ltd., employing three men who used a circular saw to make boiler covering and packing; and five tenants producing cotton and woolen yarns, one also knitting hosiery. Harpst and Montague, who would shortly own the building, had a small operation with 21 hands who made cotton carpet yarn. In 1878 the main mill structures were raised to three stories, the name changed to Clifton Mills, and Harpst, Montague, and Company became the owners. 4 There were still six tenants, but all were in the textile industry, mostly producing yarns. In 1880 Blodget indicated the main mill building burnt down in March and by May of the same year had already been re-erected. 5 That same October the Hexamer Company again surveyed the mill. 6 The number of tenants increased to eight, all producing a variety of textile yarns and materials. Thomas E. White replaced Harpst as co-owner with Montague. In 1891 the Clifton Mills were solely in the hands of White, 7 who retained ownership until 1910. 8 However, the following year, the names of Clifton Mills and Thomas E. White were not listed in Philadelphia Commercial Museum's textile directory. 9
In 1922, an atlas placed the factory of David McDowell on this corner; a P. Mc Dowell had produced ingrain carpets here in 1891.
10 In 1943 11 the offices of Andrew Michie and Sons were located at this corner. At the same time they operated the Alva Tape Mills at Columbia and 5th, but in 1945 12 they moved their textile operations to Berks and Howard. At present Pa-Cor, Inc., producers and distributors of commercial and industrial insulation, occupies the premises.

1   Hexamer General Survey #1137 (1877) "Chatham Mills, Paul Thurlow, Owner."
2   Hexamer General Survey #39 (1866) "Chatham Mills, Thurlow & Sons."
3   Hexamer General Survey #1137 (1877) "Chatham Mills, Paul Thurlow, Owner."
4   Hexamer General Survey #1315 (1878) "Clifton Mills, Harpst, Montague & Co."
5   Lorin Blodget, The Textile Industries of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, 1880), p. 16
6   Hexamer General Survey #1485 (1880) "Clifton Mills, Montague & White."
7   Hexamer and Son, 1891
8   Bromley, 1910
9   The Philadelphia Commercial Museum
10   Hexamer and Son, 1891
11   Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade, Philadelphia, p. 37
12   Sanborn Map Company, Insurance Maps of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Volume 8, revised to 1950, (New York, 1945)

Update May 2007 (by Torben Jenk):
Converted to live/work studio spaces.

See also:
Hexamer General Survey #2202 (1888) "Clifton Mills, Thos. E. White."