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Wilde Yarn Mill

"John Wilde and Brother, Inc., remains as a family owned woolen carpet yarn mill in continuous operation at this location since 1884, giving it the distinction of the oldest American carpet yarn company still in existence. 1 The complex of three buildings stands at the lower end of Manayunk, once a part of an industrial landscape that included the Pencoyd Iron Works, later the American Bridge Company, and the Wissahickon Plush Mill. Surviving as the last of these, the Wilde mill now serves as the gateway to Manayunk from the south, as proclaimed in the sign painted on the Main Street mill.

In 1882 brothers John and Thomas Wilde started the construction of a mill on Cresson Street near the intersection of Ridge Avenue. 2 This effort came two years after they had purchased two sets of cards and a mule, and had begun a carpet yarn business, spinning wool on the fifth floor of S.S. Keely's Enterprise Mill. 3 The Wilde's new mill, oriented toward Cresson Street, bares a significant resemblance to the pattern of mill construction prevalent throughout Manayunk toward the end of the nineteenth century. With its rubble stone walls and red brick trim, the mill follows the type built by S.S. Keely. Having been tenants of Keely, it appears likely that he would have constructed their mill. When completed two years later, the date 1884 was laid into the brickwork of its smoke stack where it is still clearly visible from Ridge Avenue. 4

The process of spinning carpet yarn from wool stock has not changed much over the years, with the exception of the introduction of labor saving devices and the evolution of improvements to those machines. 5 At John Wilde and Brother the acquisition of such machines led, in part, to the expansion of the mill. In 1932 the reinforced concrete and brick mill on Main Street was constructed down the rocky hillside from the earlier mill. Its structural system required fewer interior piers which resulted in more open space to accommodate larger, more modern machinery. Presently this mill houses the carding, twisting, spinning, and winding machinery. The carpet yarn process at the Wilde mill currently takes place in three buildings, the last one added in 1983; designed by Reshetar Architect, Inc., the reinforced concrete structure embellished with terra cotta tile, stands atop a rubble rock foundation (of the earlier Wissahickon Plush Mill) next to the first mill and serves as a warehouse."

- Sarah Jane Elk, Workshop of the World

Renovations at the closed Wilde Yarn Mill began in summer of 2012. The machines have been scrapped and the interior is much different. I am glad that I had the opportunity to visit before the changes were made.

If you'd like to learn more about this location, it is a featured chapter in the new Abandoned America book Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences. Signed copies are available through my website, or you can find (unsigned) copies available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online booksellers across the globe.

Photographs and unattributed text by Matthew Christopher. For more images click the thumbnails below.