Newport mill named to National Register of Historic Places
NEWPORT — The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources is proud to announce that the Dexter Richards and Sons Woolen Mill in Newport has been honored by the United States Secretary of the Interior with placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Dexter Richards and Sons Woolen Mill is the last surviving textile mill in Newport; it was one of the city’s largest and most successful industries and employers. Built in 1905 on the banks of the Sugar River — which supported industrial activity as early as 1768 - the mill reflects the evolution of water-powered mills throughout the city and the region for more than a century.
Designed by Peterborough native Edward A. Buss, Richards Woolen Mill is a typical three-story brick mill building from the early 20th century with granite, brick and metal architectural flourishes; it stands out for its five-story Romanesque tower with three tall arched windows on each side. At the base of the tower, above the entrance, are two slate roundels with the dates “1848” and “1905,” marking when both a previous mill on the site and the existing mill were built.
The main mill building incorporated modern improvements: electric lights, steam heat and a sprinkler system. Original wooden beams, windows with wheels and rod mechanisms to open transoms, beadboard enclosed staircases and steel sliding fire doors are still in place today.
A single-story brick office, connected to the main building by a tunnel, was also built in 1905. Another building was added in 1920 to house an electrical generator. Several small sections from the earlier mill, including a picker building, a boiler house and a dye house, were incorporated into the main building.
A concrete dam built in 1948 on the site of a 19th-century stone dam that was used to generate power for the mill remains at the site. Stone work from the earlier dam is still visible and large granite rocks can be seen in the adjacent spillway.
In addition to running the mill, the Richards family was instrumental in establishing the Newport Electric Company (1892) and brought both Western Union Telegraph service (1866) and the Concord & Claremont Railroad (1871) to Newport.
Richards and Sons Inc. dissolved in 1926. The property was purchased by Harry W. Brown and Associates and was renamed the Gordon Woolen Mill. That business made wool linings for Army clothing during World War II.
After the Gordon Woolen Mill went out of business, the mill was purchased at auction by Abe Caplan and renamed it the A. Caplan Dusting Mill. Upon his death, the mill was handed down to Erwin Caplan, who owned the mill for more than 25 years as it housed first Sportwelt Shoe Company and then Altama Delta Corp. William Ruger then purchased the mill around 1980.
Administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation and is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect our historic and archaeological resources.
Listing to the National Register does not impose any new or additional restrictions or limitations on the use of private or non-federal properties. Listings identify historically significant properties and can serve as education tools and increase heritage tourism opportunities. The rehabilitation of National Register-listed commercial or industrial buildings may qualify for certain federal tax provisions.
In New Hampshire, listing to the National Register makes applicable property owners eligible for grants such as the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program or LCHIP (lchip.org ) and the Conservation License Plate Program (nh.gov/nhdhr/grants/moose).