Filed Under Mills

Wamsutta Brick Double-Houses (Demolished)

With the new Wamsutta Mill rising on the banks of the Acushnet River, its proprietors tried to attract a new workforce. Wamsutta needed skilled weavers, loom fixers, and managers, and New Bedford’s workers hunted whales and made rope and candles. In addition, Wamsutta competed with established textile manufactories in places like Pawtucket and Lowell for a limited number of textile operatives. 

To attract workers to New Bedford, the company constructed eight brick double-houses, in two rows of four, at the corner of North Front Street and Logan Street close to the mills and just north of a freshwater pond. Likely modeled after similar buildings in Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts, the new worker housing attempted to resemble stately rows of housing in English textile centers.

Each building contained two units of two-and-a-half stories with separate entrances in the middle of the façade. Floor plans for similar buildings in Lawrence included a parlor, kitchen, living room, and bedroom on the first floor, and additional bedrooms on the upper floors. Behind each building was space for privies and laundry yards. The sixteen units, completed in 1848, were relatively spacious and modern compared to the overcrowded and ramshackle worker tenements in New Bedford later in the 19th century. Wamsutta rented them to overseers, machinists, carpenters, and skilled mill operatives and their families.

As Wamsutta expanded its operations and its workforce, the company added additional housing units near the original brick double houses, but built of wood rather than brick. By 1895, twenty-seven tenement buildings stood in the area roughly bounded by Hicks Street to the north, Logan Street to the south, and North Front Street and Acushnet Avenue on the east and west respectively. Fulton Court and Hampton Court (both streets now gone) extended north from Logan Street into the cluster of buildings. By the 1890s, the original brick double houses had been divided into four units each, doubling their original capacity but halving the space of each unit.

By 1945, all of the original brick housing units had been demolished, but a dozen of the later wood tenements survived until construction of John F. Kennedy Highway in the late 1960s. Today, automotive repair shops, light industry, and a church occupy the entire area.

Images

Wamsutta double houses from Logan Street 13 year-old Adrian Lornager (probably a misspelling of Loranger, by the photographer, Lewis Hine) stands on Logan Street on a cold day in 1912. The two tenements closest to Adrian are Wamsutta wood tenements, while the other two in the distance are the original brick double houses. On the other side of the fence is the Wamsutta mill pond. Adrian was a sweeper at the Grinnell Mill, which is visible at the end of Logan Street. Adrian lived several blocks away, on Bowditch Street (now Ashley Blvd.), probably in one of the tenements built by Grinnell for its workers. Source:
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. “Adrian Lornager, 8 Bowditch St. (Apparently 13.) Has Been Sweeper in Grinnell Mill Nearly a Year. Location: New Bedford, Massachusetts.” Image. Accessed March 17, 2022. https://www.loc.gov/resource/nclc.02471/.
Creator: Lewis Hine Date: 1912
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of New Bedford, 1906 (detail) This plate from the 1906 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the original eight brick double house in red, along with the later wood tenements built by Wamsutta. Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from New Bedford, Bristol County, Massachusetts. | Library of Congress (loc.gov) Date: 1906
Wamsutta Mills with Worker Housing in the Background This detail from an 1876 birds eye map of New Bedford shows Wamsutta Mills with rows of double houses in the background. Source:
“View of the City of New Bedford, Mass - Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center.” Accessed April 26, 2022. https://collections.leventhalmap.org/search/commonwealth:x633fc62k.
Creator: O.H. Bailey & Co. Date: 1876
Wamsutta Brick Double Houses This photograph of the Wamsutta brick double house on North Front Street is from a 1920 report on infant mortality in New Bedford. Source:
Whitney, Jassamine S. Infant Mortality: Results of a Field Study in New Bedford, Mass. Based on Births in One Year. Infant Mortality 10. Washington, DC: US Department of Labor Children’s Bureau, 1920.
Creator: Jessamine Whitney Date: 1920
Veronica and Steven Mikula inside 93 North Front Street Lewis Hine took this picture of the Mikula siblings in a "spare unused room too cold to warm" inside one of the Wamsutta brick double houses. Source:
Hine, Lewis Wickes. “Compare Ages: Veronica Mikula, Says 12 Years Old, 93 N. Front St., Steven Mikula, (in Mill) Says 15 Years, Appears Less than 14. Photo Taken in Spare Unused Room Too Cold to Warm. They Crowd Together in Kitchen. Location: New Bedford, Massachusetts.” Still image, 1912. Massachusetts--New Bedford. https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2018676941/.
Creator: Lewis Hine Date: 1912
The Mikula Family inside 93 North Front Street Lewis Hine took this photograph of the kitchen and living-room of Steven Mikula, inside a Wamsutta brick double house at 93 North Front Street, in 1912. Hine noted: “Steven is at the table. He has worked four months in Nonquitt Mill, in spinning room #2. Said he was 15 years old. Gets $5 a week. Mother takes care of these babies belonging to a neighbor while their mother works in the mill.” Source:
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. “Bad Housing and Congestion. the Kitchen and Living-Room of Steven Mikula, 93 N. Front St. Steven Is at the Table. He Has Worked Four Months in Nonquitt Mill, in Spinning Room #2. Said He Was 15 Years Old. Gets $5 a Week. Mother Takes Care of These Babies Belonging to a Neighbor While Their Mother Works in the Mill. Veronica (Steven’s Sister) Helps Take Care of Babies When Not at School. She Said, 12 Years Old. Compare Her with Steven. Location: New Bedford, Massachusetts.” Image. Accessed March 17, 2022. https://www.loc.gov/resource/nclc.02474/.
Creator: Lewis Hine Date: 1912
Mikeal Wikbas outside his home on Hampton Court Mikeal Wikbas, 14, stands outside his home at 3 Hampton Court in 1912. He was employed by Wamsutta. The photographer, Lewis Hine, noted this location as an example of “bad housing and congestion.” Source:
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. “Bad Housing and Congestion. Mikeal Wikbas [or Wikras?], (About 14 Years Old) at Doorway of Home. 3 Hampton Court. Works in Wamsutta Mill. Location: New Bedford, Massachusetts.” Image. Accessed April 14, 2022. https://www.loc.gov/item/2018676950/.
Creator: Lewis Hine Date: 1912
103 and 105 North Front Street By 1941, when Jack Delano took this photograph, all of the brick tenements had been demolished, while some of the wood tenements remained, including this one at 103 and 105 North Front Street. In the distance is Wamsutta 6 and 7, with the mill pond barely visible in the foreground. Source:
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. “[Untitled Photo, Possibly Related to: Bringing Home Some Salvaged Firewood in Slum Area in New Bedford, Massachusetts].” Image. Accessed April 26, 2022. https://www.loc.gov/resource/fsa.8c04382/.
Creator: Jack Delano Date: 1941
Wamsutta Tenements on Fulton Court This is likely Fulton Court, looking north toward Hicks Street from Logan Street, between rows of Wamsutta wood double houses. By 1941, when Jack Delano took this photograph, two of the tenements at right had been demolished. Source:
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. “Houses in Slum Area in New Bedford, Massachusetts.” Image. Accessed April 26, 2022. https://www.loc.gov/item/2017793290/.
Creator: Jack Delano Date: 1941
Bringing Home Firewood on North Front Street Two neighborhood residents bring home a load of firewood on a cold January day in 1941. The house at left is a Wamsutta wood tenement at 111 North Front Street; the building at right, 2 Hicks Street, is probably another tenement, although not part of the group of brick and wood buildings built by Wamsutta. The photographer, Jack Delano, described this as a “slum area” in 1941. In the late 1960s, the designation of “slum” provided justification for demolition of entire neighborhoods of worker housing, including these buildings, during a wave of “urban renewal.” Source:
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. “Bringing Home Some Salvaged Firewood in Slum Area in New Bedford, Massachusetts.” Image. Accessed April 26, 2022. https://www.loc.gov/item/2017793292/.
Creator: Jack Delano Date: 1941

Location

13 Logan Street, New Bedford, Ma

Metadata

Ron M. Potvin, “Wamsutta Brick Double-Houses (Demolished),” Rhode Tour, accessed October 3, 2022, https://rhodetour.org/items/show/140.