Barnboard Factory History
The Barnboard Factory - DVTA's Link to the Past
The DVTA's plans to build a new home in Wilmington are linked to the site's past. As part of the permitting process, the DVTA agreed to document the site's history for the Historical Society of Wilmington.
We have spent almost four years researching, interviewing, filming, and writing. The DVTA published a book in September 2012 called 45 Mill Street. With the cooperation of Bob Edwards and The Student Network, a video documentary is also planned.
The site that we purchased in 2004 has seen explosive growth, fire, flooding, speculation, bankruptcy, auctions and multiple successful ventures.
In 1915 the Ludington Woodenware Company built a wooden clothespin factory that also made wooden bowls and household items. It burned in 1915, was rebuilt in 1916, and became the region's major employer. The Hoot, Toot & Whistle Railroad linked to the site and hastened the factory's growth.
In 1941 the New England Box Company purchased the factory to make wooden fruit boxes. With the US entry into WWII, the factory made ammunition boxes for the war effort. After a prosperous period, the factory slowly became dormant with the advent of cardboard boxes, and it was auctioned in 1963.
One of the factory's uses became an assembly plant for the unique Rokon motorcycle, one of the first all-wheel drive motorcycles made. Popularized by frequent appearances on the TV show "Wild Kingdom", the plant's capacity was challenged by increasing demand. The company moved to a site in Keene, NH in 1968 and the factory was sold again in 1971 to local businessman Linc Haynes.
Under Linc's energetic plan, the factory ballooned to 82,000 square feet and once again became an important regional economic engine. A unique process converted fresh sawn hemlock into weathered barnboard siding which became a building fad for over a decade. Linc added a huge steam boiler to burn all the sawdust produced at the plant, and he shipped his products and by products all over the East. The demand died in the mid-80's, and the company was sold in 1986 and then the plant was auctioned in 1988.
A venture to run a hardware store on the site failed in bankruptcy in 1995, and the following year the site was auctioned again. The DVTA leased a small part of the structure in 2000, and then bought the entire site in 2004.
The building deteriorated to the point that it can no longer be salvaged except for two outbuildings. It was torn down in the summer/fall of 2011.
Our book, 45 Mill Street, documents the changes and impacts the site had on our region's history, as will the planned documentary. The DVTA's future plans will add more to the colorful history of 45 Mill Street.