Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Old Postcard Wednesday--Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, Salem, Oregon

Yesterday at a local farm store I saw a packet of 15 historic postcard reproductions of places in Salem, Oregon, and decided to buy it in spite of the cards not being true old postcards. The scenes depicted are wonderful and I will have fun sharing them with you along the way. I decided the first one to share would be this one of the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, specifically because the website for the Mission Mill Museum (what the Mill is now called) indicates some charming Valentine's Day activities to be held there on February 12, this coming Saturday.
  • From the Calendar & Events section of the Mission Mill Museum's website:

The back of this postcard reads:
This is a rare photograph of the original Thomas Kay Woolen Mill building constructed in 1889. The main building was equipped with the latest equipment, the newest innovations, and the finest-quality machinery. Seven years later, it burned to the ground. The main mill structure was destroyed in less than two hours.

"With the help of the Salem community, it took nearly six months to rebuild" after the fire, as mentioned in a  short and sweet video about the Mill's history at the museum's website. If you can spare four minutes you will find the video here. The sound seemed low to me so make sure your speakers are turned up.

Additionally, the website's Exhibits section offers background about "Salem's American Treasure . . . (an) historic 5-acre site (that) interprets the vibrant red structures of the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill and the simple white frame houses of devout Methodist missionaries, the founders of Salem......"
Mission Mill Museum interprets the history of the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill - designated an American Treasure by the National Park Service - which produced wool products from 1889 to 1962 and represents one of Oregon’s earliest and strongest industries.Mission Mill also interprets the history of Jason Lee's Methodist Mission to Oregon which settled in the Willamette Valley in 1834 before the major Oregon Trail migrations. The missionaries brought formal education, industry and large scale agriculture and advocated for U.S. government in the Oregon country.

Mission Mill Museum preserves Mission houses, an Oregon Trail settler's house, a historic church and the structures, equipment, and original water-powered turbine of the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill with related artifacts. The museum’s two histories are shared with visitors through individual and group tours, interpretation, speakers, living history, children’s programs, hands-on activities, special events, the museum store and rental facilities.

I have not been inside the Mill for years (last time was for a sparkling wedding), although I drive by it frequently when in Salem and always glance over to admire the striking red building. In preparing this post I found renewed interest in the place and hope to walk the grounds and tour the buildings in the near future, perhaps in the spring.



mythopolis said...

This reminds me of a time when I worked at the May Hosiery Mill in Nashville (which is now history). I was a Sock Dryer! (Definitely one for the resume!) All day long big rolling bins of hot wet socks, straight from the dye bath would roll down a ramp, and I would throw them into one of a number of huge dryers. Then I would have to empty all the dryers into other bins and send them on down to the Sock Ironer! So whenever you put on socks, please think of me. Personally, I don't wear socks because they remind me of that job!

Lydia said...

mythopolis~ Oh, what a great comment! I will def think of you when I wear socks (and I do wear them and love certain soft ones). Sock Dryer, Sock Ironer...who ever knew?! Yes, this is one for the resume. Kinda like two of my former jobs: a lily bulb scaler in a lily bulb lab (white cotton coats, tiny scalpels, loud acid rock music), and manager of a "cremation society" in charge of getting those death notices to the burner and then later handing over the "cremains" to family members and observing their emotional reactions to such a moment. gads.

Snowbrush said...

You should visit it sometimes--it's interesting.

mythopolis said...

Oh, I forgot this other one on my resume...I was a 'Coat Hanger Bender'. I'm serious. It was monotonous work. But after you spent two weeks making the left bend and handing them to the right bender guy, you got to trade places. The lily bulb scaler job sounds sorta like one of those mad scientist things!

Looking to the Stars said...

Wow, I love this postcard & the pic of the mill now. I love learning stuff like this. Its fascinating. Thanks for sharing :)

Lydia said...

Snowbrush~ You must have visited the Mill. I will take your advice. :)

mythopolis~ Coat Hanger Bender monotonous work? How could that be? kidding. I am shocked that there wasn't (isn't now?) machinery designed to bend hangers! Amazing...
Lily bulb scaling is intricate work. It involved scaling small shavings off of lily bulbs and then picking up each individual scale with tiny long tweezers and placing it into clear gel rooting compound in a small vial. A part of the scale had to be inside the solution so that the teeny thing stood up with the rest of it in the air inside the vial. We were timed. I was not a particularly speedy lily-bulb-scaler-and-scale-gel-setter and was worried I was going to lose my job when, after two weeks, I was hired for an office job that I'd interviewed for a month before.

Lydia said...

Looking to the Stars~ You are such an interesting person because you find fascination in many things. I love that about you and always appreciate your comments. :)

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

there is a small collection of buildings near where i live that mark the last remains of our milling industry - sadly the owner wants to demolish them, so has deliberately left them to decay

There are lots of buildings like that here - where you just wish someone would come along and care for them - but none are as impressive as the one in your card

Lydia said...

Pixies~ Oh, that makes me really sad. The myth that runs in my head about the UK is that most buildings are well preserved and appreciated. Is the trend toward not caring for them due mainly to economics or is there a general distaste for the past?
For every old mill that has been saved I see the spot as somewhere a WalMart is not and that alone is good enough reason in my opinion to save the old buildings!



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