Terry Waterwheel

View of the southside of Terryville Water Wheel; Source - NRIS 01001412
Address:
262 Main Street
Town:
Plymouth »
Year:
c. 1851
Historic Designation:
LHP, NR, SR
Property Authority:
Historic Properties Commission
Nature of Authority:
Regulatory
Eligible for Historic Home tax credits:
Yes
General description:

The Terryville Waterwheel is a large composite wood and iron waterwheel of pitch-back configuration dating to 1851. The factory that it powered was destroyed about 1940, but the wheel occupies its original site on the west bank of the swift-flowing Pequabuck River in the Terryville section of the town of Plymouth. The wheel is protected by a shelter erected in 1956, the roof of which duplicates the curve of the waterwheel. The shelter has brick walls on the west and north sides and is open (except for iron railings) on the east side, facing the river, and the south side, facing Main Street. Originally, the wheel was enclosed by a small gable-roofed building attached to the main mill. The area is one of small-scale commercial and industrial buildings, several of which appear vacant or marginally used. Currently, there is nomargin of land around the shelter to provide a larger setting for the wheel. The name of the property, Terryville Waterwheel, was chosen because it best reflects its overall historical significance. Formerly, the wheel was known as the Eli Terry, Jr. Water Wheel, in the belief that it dated from the construction of Eli Terry, Jr.'s clock factory on the site in 1824. That factory, then in the ownership of the Lewis Lock Company, was completely destroyed by fire on September 21, 1851, and immediately rebuilt, presumably including the wheel. Two years later, in January of 1854, the Lewis Lock Company was merged with the James Terry & Company lock company to become the Eagle Lock Company, a company that remained a major employer in Terryville for more than a century. The name "Terryville Waterwheel" appears in the title of an explanation of these circumstances by the country's foremost historian of the lock industry (Bailey and Hennessy 1997). [NR]

Significance of the property:

Industry, Engineering: The Terryville Waterwheel is the most nearly intact of the three known 19th-century wooden waterwheels remaining in Connecticut. There are three interrelated components to its significance: 1. It is an evocative monument to Connecticut's early years of industrialization (Criterion A), when industries from clocks to firearms to textiles relied in whole or in part on waterpower. The consumer-oriented manufacturing that transformed Connecticut from a mostly agricultural state to one of the country's most industrialized and urbanized societies had many roots: technological innovation, market savvy from the pedlar trade and from connections to the New York City-based wholesale sector, and a goodly amount of capital from the state's successful merchant families. One other factor was essential: the state's many fast-moving streams and rivers provided sufficient power, at least in the early years, to operate the various innovative machinery that allowed quantity-production to take place. In many cases, the early factories took over sites that had powered the mills of the agrarian economy§grist, saw, and fulling mills§but even when entirely new sites were exploited, the state's early manufacturing enterprises relied on the waterwheel technology that was developed by small-scale traditional mills. 2. It is a rare surviving example of a once-common type of construction, the wooden waterwheel, that was important not only for powering industry but also for advancing the knowledge and practice of civil and mechanical engineering (Criterion C). 3. Because so few survive, every remaining example has information value (Criterion D). Although it is known from published technical works (e.g., Buchanan 1841; Evans 1850; Overman 1851) what the period's leading authorities thought about the issues surrounding the efficient exploitation of waterpower, it can only be known what occurred in practice by studying actual examples. [NR]

Relationship with the Surroundings:

The property is located towards the north of Main Street at the intersection with Benedict Street.

Features:
The boundary embraces the wheel, its wheel pit and the protective shelter erected over it.
Historic Use:
Industry, Energy facility
Present Use:
Recreation and Culture, Monument
Architectural Style:
Other, High Breast Wheel
Era:
Mid 19th Century
Ownership:
Private
Owner:
Plymouth Historical Society
Sources:

[1] District information retrieved from the town website http://www.plymouthct.us/.
[2] Terryville Waterwheel, Historic Property Study Report, SHPO Library, Hartford.
[NR] Clouette Bruce, Terryville Waterwheel, Lakeville Historic District, National Register Nomination Number- 01001412 NRIS, National Park Service, 2001.http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/01001412.pdf;http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/01001412.pdf.

Map:

Map of the historic property retrieved from the study report, SHPO library, Hartford.

View photo
Date of Compilation:
12/31/11
Compiler:
Manjusha Patnaik, CT Trust for Historic Preservation