Historic Structures

Ponemah Mills Workers Houses, Taftville Connecticut

Date added: April 27, 2011 Categories: Connecticut House

These three six-family tenements were built by the Ponemah Millls and rented to their employees. They are one of three types of workers' housing built by the Ponemah Mills. The basic type which supplied most of the housing was a two-family tenement one-and-a-half stories high. The company started building these when they first began construction of the mill in 1866. The three six-family tenements were the second type constructed sometime before 1900. After 1900 a third type, a four-family tenement not much larger than the original two-family tenement, was built. In 1934, when the company began selling its housing, Ponemah Mills owned 206 dwelling houses. In 1960, Ponemah Mills owned only three houses for the top officers of the company.

The following is extracted from John D. Nolan, History of Taftville, Connecticut:

For the last several years many of the textile manufacturing companies have disposed of their tenement houses, either at auction or at private sale. At the present time (1940) it is probable that nearly all the houses in such villages have become private property. In 1934, the Ponemah Mills decided to dispose of the greater number of such houses, and decided to sell them at private sale, if possible, through the agency of G. L. and H. J. Gross, of Providence, R. I. One hundred and eighty-seven were to be sold, and the preference was to be given, for a specified time, to the tenants occupying the houses. One hundred and one dwellings were sold during the first week, and after a few more days of a closed sale, the public was permitted to buy the dwellings. The agents established their headquarters in the Community building at Taftville, and interest in the sale was high as many of the tenants sought to secure their own homes. There are 206 dwellings listed in the assessment of the Ponemah Mills.

It was stated that the Community building, boarding house, 15 houses occupied by overseers and second-hands were reserved by the mill management and were not to be sold. Deeds were delivered between June 1st and 10th and the mill management had agreed to take back a mortgage of 60 percent of the sale price. A policy of title insurance was given the purchaser and the company also agreed to furnish electric light and water at fair rates, as in the past. The prices for the dwellings ranged from $1600 to $2800 for the frame structures, most of which are two and four family houses. There were four houses sold however for $1250. The six family dwellings, were sold for about $5000; 16 brick houses on Terrace avenue were listed at $4000 and one at $4200. These brick structures, with slate roofs contains nearly all modern improvements.

Mr. Gross during this sale, informed me that the company was selling these houses at what they considered a fair valuation. This would conform to the taxation or assessment laws of both Rhode Island and Connecticut. When the greater number of these houses were erected, building material was very cheap, labor was very low, carpenter's receiving from $1.25 to $1.50 per day of 10 hours. The governmental expenses of the town were very light, the first selectman received $500 per year, with no expenses; assessor, $300 per year and the tax collector about $1100 per year; consequently taxes were very low, and rents in Taftville very cheap, tenement of six rooms rented for $1.50 and some less, per week. When the houses went to private ownership, taxes jumped and rents more than doubled.

Houses on Providence street were assessed at close to the purchase price, but on the other streets they increased at an average of $500 or more above the price for which they were bought, and the majority of the people failed to realize that they were paying on an over valuation. In the deeds it it was stipulated that until May 1, 1944, no building other than a dwelling house, or a private garage shall be erected or maintained on any lot on said plot, with the exception of the lots fronting on Second Avenue. Until said date no building other then a dwelling house, store, shop or private garage shall be erected or maintained on said plot. Any part of which garage is nearer to the line of the street on which the house or said lot faces than the rear line of said house or is nearer than 30 feet to the line of any other street. The Ponomah Mills agree that all taxes assessed against the land upon the lists of October 1, 1932 and 1933, will be paid in full as soon as the amount is definitely determined. As long as the Ponemah Mills are obligated to maintain sewers, and drains, the buyer must pay to them, for the privilege, $5 per year.

Regarding defaulting of payments the deeds read: If the buyer shall default in making the payments herein provided, the Ponemah Mills shall be at liberty upon refunding to the buyer all payments made hereunder forthwith, to offer said premises for sale elsewhere; but nothing contained herein shall prevent the seller from enforcing full performance of the agreement.

Overall dimensions: These three six-family tenements are long rectangular buildings, 2-1/2 stories high, facing east,

The apartments are identical, but with alternating reflected plans. Each unit is the full 2-1/2 stories high, with two rooms, a kitchen, and a parlor, on the first floor. The interiors are simply finished with plaster walls and ceilings and wood floors and trim.