In the late 1800s, the power of the Cocheco River was harnessed by the Washington Street Mills to make textiles. From the mighty mill machinery flowed a river of cloth, which was sold throughout the region and around the world. The mills also carried enormous economic power, creating hundreds of jobs, and fostering the growth of the City of Dover.
Stiff competition from Southern cotton mills, two disastrous fires, and the Great Depression, ended the mills’ production after the turn of the century. In 1940, the mills were sold at auction.Over the years the mills have been referred to as both Clarostat and One Washington Center. By the 1980s, the buildings had fallen into severe disrepair. Joseph Sawtelle and Tim Pearson purchased the mills and began restoration efforts.
In 2000, after Mr. Sawtelle’s death, local developer Eric Chinburg bought the mills, and carried out the vision of revitalizing these historic structures. Mr. Chinburg has established an strong reputation as New Hampshire’s mill guy for restoring these hulking properties and creating contemporary housing and work spaces. In addition to the Washington Street Mills in Dover, Chinburg has renovated mill properties in Laconia, Newmarket, Portsmouth and Somersworth.
Today, the mills once again help fuel not only Dover’s economic growth, but its cultural and creative spirit as well.