In the early 1800s William E. Hooper started a flour mill at the current site of Clipper Mill . Converted to produce cotton cloth in the 1830s, the complex expanded into several new buildings along the Jones Falls. In 1843, Robert Poole opened a modest machine plant at 161 North Street (now Guilford Avenue). By 1851, when Poole formed a partnership with German Hunt, the plant had become one of the nation’s busiest machine manufacturing shops. After an 1853 fire, the firm moved to Woodberry Road, just north of a branch of the Jones Falls at the foot of Tempest Hill.
The new location, initially called the Union Machine Shops, held general offices, an iron foundry, erecting and pattern shops, a melting house and stables. The new plant soon became one of the largest employers in the Woodberry community—home for thousands of workers who helped to manufacture everything from architectural ironwork to looms for weaving “cotton duck,” the cloth used for sails during the first World War. Poole & Hunt maintained a 60-foot diameter "pit lathe" (the largest in the world at the time) and foundries that cast the 36-inch columns and brackets supporting the dome on the U.S. Capitol building. The business operated until the 1920s, when the site was occupied by a variety of smaller machine shops, and then in the 1970s by artists and light industrial firms. In 1996, a tremendous fire took place that claimed the life of a firefighter and destroyed or damaged a number of buildings.
After years of vacancy, the development firm Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse tackled the large site with a preservation and rehabilitation focus. Now a thriving complex of residences, offices, shops, restaurants, and even a new crop of hard-at-work artisans, Clipper Mill is a great combination of the old and the new and a showcase of what a historic industrial complex can become. Not least of its notable attributes, the restoration of Clipper Mill has won not one but two historic preservation awards from Baltimore Heritage.