During the industrial revolution America’s landscape became dotted with mills and factories. In New England specifically, a vast system of mills, dams, railroads and canals spread rapidly along bodies of water such as the Merrimack and Blackstone Rivers. This was a period of rapid invention and innovation, allowing goods to be produced at rates faster than ever before. This golden age of manufacturing ended in New England shortly after the second World War. As a result of cheaper labor and materials overseas, and a growing domestic interest in communications and information technology, manufacturing in America is presently at an all-time low. Despite the decline of the industry, the enormous utilitarian structures built to house it still remain a part of our landscape.
These vacant buildings, many of which have been empty since the companies last shut their doors, are presently in a state of transition. After sitting empty for so many years there has been an interest by developers and city planners in giving these buildings a new life in their modern cities. Some are renovated into loft spaces or galleries, others are demolished in order to make way for new businesses and others are still awaiting their destiny. My goal is to document this period of transition as these structures are given new roles in the modern economy.
In order to accomplish this I have extensively photographed mills and factories in various locations around New England. I am interested in not only how these buildings have adapted to their now-modern cities, but also how the environment around them has evolved. Some have been integrated into a modern skyline while others have become completely overgrown by nature. By observing these changes one can begin to draw conclusions as to how these regions react and interact with their history. This catalogue of images will serve as my addition to the long lineage of photographs of these structures; depicting these buildings in the nineteenth, twentieth and now, the twenty-first century.
CJ Heyliger, 2006
Click on each image for larger version and caption.