The Willowvale Bleachery was built in 1880 by George Chadwick. The mill initially made sheeting for beds. It later become a dye mill and then a bleachery. The company was a division of the Utica Mohawk Cotton Mills.
Three ponds were built on a creek that fed the Sauquoit Creek. They started at a high elevation to produce power for the Bleachery. The original developer of this area was Amos Roger, who spent many hours laying the paths and quarrying stone to create the reservoir walls. This glen was used by the employees for picnics and nature walk.
In 1910 the Bleachery added a building to expand its bedsheet production. The labor force was largely composed of young women at their machines, with a few men in more authoritative roles. The Bleachery was the one of the primary employers in Willowvale with 300 workers. As was typical during the Progressive Age, a significant percentage of the workforce was female, however few if any of them were in positions of authority.
Sewing room floor.
Employees in the Bleachery packing room prepared the factory's output for delivery all over the northeast United States. Sheets were wrapped in kraft paper were then loaded into wooden crates for shipping.
Life at the loading dock was arduous, as was most factory work. The loading dock was where trucks were filled with products made at the Bleachery.
In 1922 the Willowvale Bleachery Company built a clubhouse for its employees that consisted of a large auditorium, library, billiard tables and a bowling alley. Also at this time, the company purchased a Foamite-Childs Pumper and established a fire company. This was the only fire truck in the area until the Willowvale Fire Company was incorporated in 1950. The Bleachery clubhouse hosted banquets, musical plays and meetings held by small organizations.
The Bleachery's commitment to its employees extended to providing many with company housing. The survey map from 1949, toward the end of the factory's life, shows the proximity of these homes to the Glen and Sauquoit Creeks. Homes were constructed in a similar fashion to one another and were, by comparison to other factory housing in the region, fairly spacious.
The Bleachery remained in operation until 1952, when the company moved south. The employee housing was sold off, starting in the late 1940s.
Bleachery workers 1906