The Stonington plant was built by the town in 1888 as a means of encouraging the development of new industry. Originally, A. Wimpfheimer & Bro., Inc. imported velvets from abroad and sold them to itinerant merchants and to consumers. The passage of the McKinley Act in 1891 made it possible to start manufacturing velvet in this country. At first, the Wimpfheimers attempted to weave and dye fabrics in their mill in Astoria, Long Island. However, because of a malaria epidemic, they relocated to Stonington, Connecticut.
“From the time the yarn enters the Wimpfheimer plant to the time the fine finished velvets leave, all packed and ready for use, every step in production is performed under one roof…under one guiding hand…under one standard of quality. We weave our own grey goods…dye and finish the piece. Many of these operations are performed on special machinery designed by Clarence A. Wimpfheimer in conjunction with textile engineers and key men of the organization.
“For speed and efficiency of operation…for streamlined production methods…for economy of motion and effort…the Wimpfheimer plant rivals the straight-line production set-ups of the automobile industry.”
In 1996, the President of the American Velvet Company made the tough decision to move the company out of Connecticut and relocate to Virginia, which is more business friendly. Mr. Wimpfheimer cited that personnel costs were over 20 times higher in CT than Virginia. From an original mill organization operating 25 looms and employing 35 people in 1891, the company expanded with the growth of this country, operating approximately 300 broad looms with 450 employees by the middle of the 20th century.
Today this Mill, like many others in New England, continues to develop its adapted reuse with the many artists, craftspeople and entrepreneurs. We feel a certain kinship with the artisans that worked here for generations and we ask you to join us in celebrating their many contributions. The Velvet Mill is now home to a thriving creative community of artists, entrepreneurs, and businesses. Offering visual arts, design, unique crafts, creative classes, health & healing services, fitness classes, and professional services. The Mill is also home to an artisanal bakery, an award-winning nano-brewery, a woodfired pizza restaurant, an espresso bar, and a new bistro style restaurant garnering rave reviews.
Special thanks to The Stonington Historical Society for consulting with content. To learn more about Historic Stonington, visit http://stoningtonboroughct.com/historic-stonington/