Sunday, September 6, 2009

Vanished Rochester: Western Knitting Mills Boarding House

We can still see a portion of the former Western Knitting Mills building at Fourth & Water streets if we visit the Rochester Mills Beer Company, but in its early twentieth-century heyday, the WKM complex was much larger than the surviving building indicates. A now-vanished part of that industrial site is the boarding house area. Western Knitting Mills was a major employer in its day, and advertised for workers far beyond Rochester. Women came from all over to take jobs in the knitting mills, and in 1912 the company began building dormitories to house them. The Rochester Era described the first boarding house as follows:
The building is 80 feet long and 28 feet wide, is of cement blocks and is situated just south of the mills, enabling both heating and lighting to be furnished by the machinery in the mills. Fifty girls can easily be accommodated there.
The newspaper went on to say that the kitchen was furnished with a "large automatic dishwasher, the pride of the building." Quite a luxurious feature, for 1912!

Photo: This postcard photo from the collection of Rochester Hills Public Library shows the first boarding house, located along Water Street on the south side of the knitting mills building, just after it was built in the summer of 1912.

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