Mt. Washington Mill—historically Washington Mill, part of Washington Cotton Manufacturing Company—is one of Maryland’s earliest purpose-built cotton mills. In the early nineteenth century, the Napoleonic Wars and the Embargo Act disrupted imports and created new demand for locally-made cotton goods. When the nearly four stories tall stone Mt. Washington Mill began operation in 1810, it could fill this new market.
Located near the center of the complex, the mill was first powered by the current of the Jones Falls. Indentured servants, primarily young boys, worked to make fabrics like ginghams and calicos. The operation grew and the mill began hiring more men, women and children as workers. Most lived nearby in Washingtonville, a company town that, by 1847, included a company store and nearly forty homes between the factory and the railroad tracks. Workers were called to their shifts by the sound of the bell ringing in the mill's cupola.
The mill passed through several hands before 1853 when industrialists Horatio Gambrill and David Carroll acquired the facility. The pair had been quickly erecting textile mills in the Jones Falls Valley for the production of cotton duck, a heavy canvas used primarily for ship sails. By 1899, it had become part of the Mt. Vernon-Woodberry Cotton Duck Company — a large conglomerate of textile mills comprising fourteen sites in Maryland and beyond — which would eventually control as much as 80% of the world’s cotton duck production until 1915, when the conglomerate split apart.
Washingtonville the mill village was soon overshadowed by the residential suburb of Mt. Washington, established in 1854 on the other side of the tracks. Mt. Washington became a fashionable neighborhood for middle-class Baltimoreans looking to get out of the city—Baltimore remained easily accessible by train. Life in Mt. Washington was much different than life in Washingtonville. Children were under little pressure to drop out of school to work in the mills to support their families, homes were spacious and built to fine standards, and residents had access to plenty of leisure activities and entertainment, such as at the "Casino" where all sorts of exhibitions and games and held.
In 1923, Washington Cotton Mill was purchased by the Maryland Bolt and Nut Company and repurposed for the production of metal fasteners like bolts, nuts, screws, and rivets. Industrial buildings were added to the campus and existing ones were outfitted for working steel. In 1972, Hurricane Agnes wrecked much of the industrial campus and in response, the factory was sold to Leonard Jed Company, a manufacturer of industrial supplies. It was sold again in 1984 to Don L. Byrne, a manager at the plant, before being redeveloped by Himmelrich Associates in the 1990s for office and commercial use.
Washingtonville never underwent the same revitalization. The village was largely razed in 1958 to make way for the Jones Falls Expressway leaving only a single duplex house still standing today.
Watch our Five Minute Histories video on this site!