Yantic Falls Historic District
The Yantic Falls Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
Yantic Falls is located about one mile north of the point where the Yantic River meets the Shetucket River, where together they become the Thames River. The falls themselves are still a place of natural beauty, with large boulders upon which the water crashes in its forty foot descent. Just above the falls, the river is spanned by a railroad truss bridge of the Central Vermont Railroad and an iron pedestrian bridge, built in 1904 by the Berlin Bridge Company. This bridge provides the walker with access to the other side of the river and with a beautiful view of the falls beneath his feet.
Below the falls is the mill complex. A road, meandering down the hill parallel to the rover, services the mills. At the bottom of the hill are the newer buildings, of brick, and, where additions have been made, concrete. Farther up the hill are the older buildings, also of brick, with flat-topped towers and brackets. The windows have stone sills and either a curved head with an arch of brick or stone lintels. At nearly the crest of the hill is what is probably the oldest mill building extant. It is of random ashlar and has a gradually sloping roof, with a slight overhang to the eaves. The neatly laid stone shows carefully placed sills and lintels, overlapping between the two levels, and large multi-paned windows on all sides.
The mill housing varies greatly in appearance. Across the street from the stone building is a row of three brick dwellings, probably of the era of the brick mill buildings. Despite the debris outside, they are in quite good condition. The detail has not been obliterated by time or misuse; dentils and a frieze run across the facade and there is a small return cornice at the gable ends. Window openings and doorways appear generally unchanged and show the curved heads with arches. Window sash is frequently the proper six-over-six, except on the facade where later 19th century two-over-two has replaced the older. Farther up the hill where the street turns north, the housing is in very poor condition. However, although it is disfigured by added porches and asbestos siding on one building, and the windows have been enlarged, their form and proportion remain. On two of the houses the brick work and some detail is still visible. Particularly the brick arches over the windows can be seen. The window sash in most places is two-over-two, while only a few have the smaller, older panes. These buildings are probably the older of the housing, showing four end chimneys large enough to accommodate the expected number of fireplaces. The center-chimney house of the far end of this grouping is probably the oldest.
The area is depressed and the buildings are undoubtedly low-income housing; some are for sale. In front of the frame house nearest the bridge, a sign reads "For Sale: Industrial Zone." The future of the mill itself seems to be good but without some pride and work, the housing will not fare well.
The area of Yantic Falls is an important one for several reasons. The falls are said to be the site of the last great battle between the Narragansets and the Mohegans, hence have significance in the long story of the Indians of Norwich. The mills, built much later, have played an important part in the commercial development of the town. The housing is a reflection and part of the commercial era.
Indian History — The falls were also known as Indian Leap, referring to the battle of 1643 when the Narragansets were defeated by the Mohegans. They were rival tribes and constantly at war. In their last battle, the Mohegans drove their enemy to the falls edge where they "plunged, either unawares or with reckless impetuosity, into the abyss beneath..."
Commercial History — Manufacturing days began early at the falls. In 1813 a nail factory was established there, where nails were cut by a newly invented machine. Ten years later, the water power from the falls was utilized to run the Thames Manufacturing Company. In 1818 Amos H. Hubbard started a paper mill at the Falls. In 1826 the Quinebaug Company was chartered for the manufacture of cotton and woolen goods. These busy and productive days continued until 1837 when many businesses failed in the financial crash and a general depression hit the area. The Quinebaug Company was sold and became the Shetucket Mills, then the Atlantic Carton Company, and the Thames Manufacturing Company became the Falls Mills. In 1860 the Falls Company took over Amos Hubbard's paper mill. The buildings were expanded as the new companies prospered; the Falls Company grew to nearly three times its former size and power. As it grew, it purchased rights and privileges in the neighborhood so that by the 1860's it was able to control nearly the entire waterpower of the Yantic River.
For a time in recent history , the mill buildings were vacant and falling into disrepair. They are now occupied by the Falls Corporation and the Instruteck Corporation and are operating with a modern form of power rather than water power. The Yantic Falls Historic District is alive once again. We believe that this rejuvenation will spur the rescue and rehabilitation of the entire area, particularly the housing as an integral part of this homogeneous area.
Caulkins, Frances M., History of Norwich, Connecticut. Published by the Author, 1866.
O'Keefe, Marian K. and Catherine S. Doroshevich, Norwich Historic Homes and Families. Pequot Press, Stonington, Ct. 1967.
† Susan Babbitt, Connecticut Historical Commission, Yantic Falls Historic District, Norwich, CT, nomination document, 1972, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.