These two sites both started as successful factories taking advantage of the industrial revolution and the Mill River but over time took two very different paths. One path led to redevelopment and the other led to demolishment. Both are examples of the different ways that people choose to interpret the landscape.
From Smith Archives,1885; courtesy of Reid Bertone-Johnson
The factory was built in 1866, just after the civil war, by Maynard & Clement. Until 1870 it was known as the Clement & Hawks Manufacturing Company factory. At that time there was a shift to making agricultural tools and was henceforth known as the Maynard Hoe Factory. The dam was repaired in 1885 prior to a flood. It faced a series of financial, flood, and fire problems. It burned for the last time in 1919 and was eventually demolished in 1921.
From Thomas Douglas Architects
The original building was demolished and no other industry replaced it but the dam that was next to it remains. The Smith College Conference Center is the closest building to the old factory.
The dam is the only remnant of industrial past but, is seen more as a feature of Paradise Pond that creates a scenic waterfall than a historically industrial dam. Recently, there has even been talk about removing the dam and reimagining the pond and the campus without it.
The history of industrial use has vanished from the site. Most people, including Smith students, don't know that there used to be a hoe factory located on Paradise Pond/Smith's section of the Mill River, let alone that it operated for roughly 50 years after Smith opened.
From Historic Northampton, 1870
The building was constructed in 1847 with brick and other stone. The dam was added in 1873.
Was Nonotuck Silk Company (later renamed Corticelli Silk Company) prior to 1854. By 1854, A.P. Critchlow & Company was manufacturing buttons thanks to a thermoplastic created by Alfred P. Critchlow. The company's name changed to Littlefield, Parsons & Company in 1858 and remained so until 1866 when they entered the brush making business and changed their name again to the Florence Manufacturing Company. That name would last until 1924 when the name changed again and they became the Pro-phy-lac-tic Brush Company (the name they are most well known for).
The company was most popular for their Pro-phy-lac-tic toothbrush but they also made other types of brushes and diversified over the years to make an array of plastic products. In 1997, Pro Corp. bought the property in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for $5 million and continued operating the factory. It remained the Pro-phy-lac-tic Brush Company until 2007 when the factory closed.
From City Feet, pre-2008
In 2008 the building was purchased by developer Matthew J. McDonough for $950,000. It was then redeveloped to serve as commercial space. It is currently occupied by a variety of tenants.
The building looks very different now than it did originally but it still looks and comes across as a remnant of a time of flourishing industry. The dam is also still there but is not being used for industrial services. Many people that used to work for the Pro Brush company still live in the area and clearly remember the factory. Historic Northampton created Remembering Pro Brush an oral history project in 2015 to record the stories and memories of former employees of the factory.
Photos of Hoe Factory courtesy of Reid Bertone-Johnson/Smith Archives and Forbes Library