Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Pasted Graphic
South facade along Montgomery Avenue and east facade along Hope Street (2007). Dyeing was done in the one-story gable-roofed building.

Star Carpet Mill, 1882
1801 North Howard Street, Philadelphia PA 19122
(northeast corner of Montgomery Avenue, east to Hope Street)

Carmen A. Weber, Irving Kosmin, and Muriel Kirkpatrick, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).

This attractive complex of buildings survives intact except for the upper extension of the clearstory above the dyehouse. The buildings are all brick, the mill on the corner extends ten bays along Howard Street, it has five storys, with an iron fire escape on the four bay south end. In 1878 there were vacant lots here behind the Chatham Mills, but the next year Blodget placed Joseph Taylor's new 1879 steam-powered mill on this corner. At that time the mill was shared with tenants, including Waterloo Hosiery perhaps named for the small street a half block to the west. The Hexamer insurance map of 1891, stated the mill was erected in 1882, it is these buildings we see today.  The survey did not list any tenants; carpet manufacturing occupied all buildings including the dyehouse. Dyeing was most often done by independent firms, 1 but 80% of the fifteen carpet mills surveyed in the West Kensington area had their own dyehouses.
 
It is unclear why this carpet mill had the name Star Mill, or when the name became associated with it. The first time this mill was so named is in 1891, on both the Hexamer insurance map and a Hexamer General Survey, before then it was referred to as Joseph Taylor's mill. The most prominent Star Mill was Thomas Craige's, the largest spinning mill in the city in 1850.
2 Once located three blocks south on Howard, the earlier Star Mill kept its name through a number of changes in ownership. By 1885 it was incorporated as one of Arrott's Steam Power Mills, retaining the same name. 3 However, there was a Henry Taylor, a woolen yarn manufacturer, occupying parts of floors in several of the buildings. If he had been related to Joseph Taylor, perhaps he brought the Star name to the carpet mill on Montgomery.
 
The Taylor name is not easily traced as it occurs a number of times in the West Kensington area.  Blodget listed two Taylor carpet makers, Joseph and Thomas.  He mentioned a third, saying that Thomas Taylor occupied the former mill of James Taylor at 2020-2028 Hope Street, about two blocks north of Montgomery. A 1910 Bromley Atlas associated William S. Taylor with the Montgomery and Howard carpet mill; the same year the Philadelphia Commercial Museum's directory of textile industries listed Joseph Taylor and Sons, producer of dye carpet yarns at this address. In 1916 a Thomas Taylor was located at Howard and Berks, a block north, employing twenty-one people in making yarns, nine on the office staff.
 
Some time before 1916 Arrott Steam Power Mills, Co. had taken incorporated the Star Mills as it had the Hampden and Star mills further south on Howard; by 1945 the buildings at this end of the block had no name on the map; they may have merged with Andrew Y. Michie and Sons, textile mills, at the north end of this block.
4
 
Today the Star Mill is not deserted as are many buildings in West Kensington. It is advertising for new tenants and potted plants festoon the fire escapes depicted in the 1885 Hexamer drawing.

1   Scranton, Proprietary Capitalism, p. 208.
2   Scranton, Proprietary Capitalism, p. 196.
3   Hexamer General Survey #86 (1866) "Star Mills, Thomas H. Craig & Co."
Hexamer General Survey #1889 (1885) "Star Mills, Arrott Steam Power Mills Co."
4   Sanborn Map Company, 1917, and 1945.


Update May 2007 (by Torben Jenk):
Converted to live/work studios in the late 1980s and still serving that purpose. Buildings on the rest of the block, to the north, have also been converted for similar uses.


See also:
Hexamer General Survey #2492 (1891) "Joseph Taylor & Son, Star Carpet Mill."