Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2006 Preservation Award Winners
Hamel Mill Lofts • Haverhill
Hamel Mill Lofts • Haverhill

Adaptive Reuse, Rehabilitation & Restoration

The Hamel Mill Lofts project converted a complex of four buildings, originally built for the L.H. Hamel Leather Company, to residential use. During the 1920s, Hamel Leather was the nation’s largest producer of shoe linings. The complex is significant for its association with the rebirth of the shoe manufacturing industry in Haverhill following the Great Fire of 1882. The buildings include the 1911 Pentucket Associates Building, the 1915 Essex Associates Building, the 1916 Tilton Building, and the 1928 Power Plant. The complex illustrates the early 20th century transition in the design and construction of large-scale industrial buildings from traditional load-bearing masonry buildings, executed in revival styles, to reinforced concrete buildings of curtain-wall construction.

These four buildings, all rehabilitated by Forest City Residential Group, had been partially occupied for the last 20 years and had suffered from deferred maintenance and neglect. Extensive water infiltration through the roofs, walls, and windows of all the buildings had resulted in deteriorated finishes and structural members. Each building required extensive masonry repairs, particularly the Tilton Building, which had severely compromised concrete and exposed reinforcing rebar. To ensure accuracy, core samples of the existing concrete were carefully tested before specifications for the final mortar mix were completed. The project also included repairs and stabilization of the brick smokestack, including its “L.H. HAMEL LEATHER CO.” sign, thus ensuring the preservation of one of the complex’s most significant industrial features. This adaptive reuse project created 305 new residential rental units, 20 percent of which are affordable. The restoration and adaptive reuse of the Hamel Mill Lofts contributes greatly to the ongoing revitalization of Haverhill’s historic downtown.

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