Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2013 Preservation Award Winners
Appleton Mills

Appleton Mills • Lowell

Adaptive Reuse, Rehabilitation & Restoration

Appleton Mills represents the adaptive reuse of the remnants of the former Appleton Manufacturing Company property, located in the Lowell National Historical Park, the Downtown Lowell Historic District, and the Locks and Canals National Historic Landmark District. The site is significant for its association with the industrial development and growth of Lowell, and specifically that of the Appleton Manufacturing Company, one of the largest producers of textiles in the 19th century. Although the main millyard was once crowded with buildings, only three remained at the project’s inception in 2009: Mill #1, a six-story, red-brick building, constructed ca. 1915; the five-story ca. 1900 Company Office Building; and Mill #4, a five-story building constructed ca. 1900. Prior to the project, the buildings were in very poor condition due to neglect, water infiltration, fire, and vandalism. Several window openings had been bricked in. Upper floors, which had been open to the weather, were enclosed with vinyl siding as a mothballing measure.

As part of the long-term project to redevelop the 15-acre Hamilton Canal redevelopment district, Appleton Mills was rehabilitated into 130 live/work units of affordable housing with a preference for artists, utilizing state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits. Restoration of the highly deteriorated structures required temporary, 60-foot-tall braces to avoid wall collapse. Extant exterior walls were restored, and new walls are clearly differentiated from the original fabric, clad with either corrugated metal or zinc shingles. New windows replicate the size and design of original windows. At the interior, steel columns and fasteners were preserved and heavy timber beams were replaced. New mill decking, visible throughout the structure, replaced the water-damaged floors. Former mill hoistways were re-created as contemporary decks, and “ghosted” overhead bridge remnants hint of the former mill environment. Oversized elevators, doorways, and hallways allow for transportation of artwork. The common areas of the building serve as a hub for artist gatherings, civic meetings, and other events that contribute to the rich cultural fabric of Lowell. The dramatic transformation and restoration of Appleton Mills has paved the way for future revitalization in the Hamilton Canal redevelopment district.

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