Historic Structures

Harmony Manufacturing Company Mill #3 (Mastodon Mill), Cohoes New York

Date added: February 28, 2010 Categories: New York Industrial Mill

Known locally as the Mastodon Mill, the Harmony Mill No. 3 is exceptionally interesting for its decorative architectural treatment, uncommonly elaborate for an industrial structure Although the building is nearly 1100 feet long, its finely articulated facade, mansard roof, and central tower make it a well-scaled element of the Harmony Mills complex, which includes mill buildings, power canals, workers' houses, and commercial structures. Harmony is one of the finest examples of a large-scale textile mill complex outside of New England, and it has played an important role in the economic development of Cohoes.

In excavating for the foundation of the north end of the building, the bones of a mastodon were found. Subsequently the mill became popularly known as the "Mastodon Mill." The skeleton of this mammoth was presented to the State of New York, and it still remains on display at the State Museum in Albany.

The Harmony Manufacturing Company, later known as the Harmony Mills, was incorporated in 1836. Various prominent business men were among the founders of the company, including Peter Harmony, after whom the company was named.

In 1837 the first mill for cotton spinning was erected on a plot of land which became the nucleus of the holdings of the company. This operation was not, however, a financial success, and in 1850, the property was sold to Garner & Co., of New York, and to Alfred Wild, of Kinderhook. Garner & Co. operated mills in Rochester, Newburg, Wappinger Falls, and Rockland, New York, and in Reading, Pennsylvania. Thomas Garner also held a controlling interest in the Cohoes Company. A bronze statue of Garner by Millman, a Boston sculptor, was placed after Garner's death in a niche in the central tower of the mill, where it still stands.

Robert Johnston, who had previously managed a cotton mill for Nathan Wild in Valatie, New York, was appointed by Wild's son, Alfred, agent of the Harmony Mills. Johnston, and his son David J. Johnston, so successfully managed the mills that in 1873 the Harmony complex was described as "the richest, the largest, and the most complete Cotton Manufacturing Establishment on the American continent."

The Harmony Mills took a great interest in the well-being of its employees and their surroundings. The company built tenements for its workers. The streets, which were lined with shade trees, reputedly were kept very clean; the sidewalks were paved with asphalt; and a Sunday school and afternoon worship services were sponsored by the company.

After Robert Johnston died in 1890 and David J. Johnston in 1894, D. S. Johnston became in 1903 the third generation of his family to hold the position of agent of the company. In 1910 Garner & Co. sold its interest in the Harmony property and in the Cohoes Company as well. The mills were purchased by the Saco-Lowell and Draper Corporation of Hopedale, Massachusetts, major manufacturers of textile machinery. The Harmony Mills Corporation was liquidated between 1932 and 1937, and the real estate properties were sold. The No. 3 Mill was sold along with some other buildings for $2,500.