Original wooden structure of the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill destroyed by fire in November 1895.

A fire devastated the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill in November 1895.  Here are some excerpts of news related to the rebuilding of the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill for reference purposes.  Citations are given.

December 6, 1895

The Woolen Mill Subsidy (Oregon Statesman page 5)

Mr. Kay has made arrangements to leave for California just as soon as the stock is wholly susbcribed[sic], to look over some factories there, in view of building on similar lines.  He has engaged the services of Architect W.D. Pugh to accompany him on this trip to assist in calculating the dimensions of the structures which meet with favor.  One mill in particular, located in Oakland, has always been the pride of Mr. Kay and he will pay special attention to it, in view of erecting the new one for Salem on a like plan.

December 12, 1895

The Stock All Taken (Oregon Statesman page 5

…Mr. Kay said that his father, who is now at Waterloo, was instantly notified yesterday on the completion of the subsidy committee’s task, and that in response to that notice Mr. Kay at once sent for Architect W.D. Pugh, who joined the woolen mill proprietor at Lebanon last night.  Together they will take certain points of structural advantage from the Waterloo mills, which style of building and arrangement suit Mr. Kay much better even than the old mills here.  They will return to Salem tomorrow or Saturday, at which time it will be better known just what the character of the new structure is to be.  At all events young Mr. Kay declares his father has abandoned the theory of one-story brick edifices and the company is a unit on two-story buildings, either of brick or of wood, lined for fire-proof purposes with iron….

…An order for lumber has already been filed with the Goodale Lumber company, and Mr. Kay gives the gratifying assurance that not a day will be lost in amplifying and perfecting the work on the new mills….

December 17, 1895

The Work Started (Oregon Statesman page 5)

…Architect W.D. Pugh was early in his office and soon deep in the plans that will serve the builders of the new structure.  He had so far progressed on them last night as to give a very tangible and agreeable idea of their dimensions, location and materials.  It seems to be conceded now by all interested that all or most of the buildings will be of brick.  The main mill will certainly be built of this solid and serviceable material and it is safe to assume that the whole group will be constructed in conformity with the leading structure.  This is but shrewd foresight on the part of the projectors and it bears the ring of permanency and safety that will be welcome alike to the interested owner as well as to the average citizen.

The new mill will have an “eight set” capacity, nearly double the old one, and aside from the principal mill edifice which will be sixty by one hundred and fifty feet and fronting on 12th street, about sixty feet back form tat thorough fare, there will be another building nearly as large in ground space, but only one story in height, in which will be housed the dry room, dye room, picking and mixing room, altogether fifty by one hundred and fifty feet.  This will form an eastern extension of the mill proper, but will be separated form it by a forty-foot court.  On the south of this last-named structure and thirty feet distant from it, two other buildings will go up.  The boiler room, twenty-five by thirty feet, and the pump and dynamo house, sixteen feet square….

January 3, 1896

FOR NEW BIDS (Weekly Oregon Statesman page 3)

The revised plans for the new woolen mills are now completed, together with specifications, and many[sic] be examined at the office of Architect W.D. Pugh in the Tioga block. Bids on the construction fo the mill are hereby invited and all bids received in this behalf will be duly opened at 3 o’clock on Thursday, January 23, the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill Co., reserving the right to reject any and all bids.

The New Bids Opened (Oregon Statesman page 5)

Thirteen contracting firms submit their estimates

For the Construction of the Salem Woolen Mill – Contract no Yet Awarded

The Woolen mill bids, advertised for on the revised specifications and plans were opened yesterday afternoon in Architect W.D. Pugh’s office in the Tioga block.  A score or more of carpenters and stone and brick masons were present as was also Thos. Kay , T.B. Kay, Robt. Coshow and Squire Farrar, members of the company….

…Two classes of bids were called for – one for brick structure and the other for frame.

Those submitted were taken into consideration by the company and definite action will, no doubt, be taken today in the matter of awarding the contract.

The large steam boiler of the woolen mill, which came out of the late fire with but slight damage, is being fixed up for the purpose of being tested some time in the near future.  The tall smokestack has passed through the foundryman’s hands and all the indentations have been pressed out and the big iron tube will be raised to its proper position by Silas Howard either today or tomorrow.

January 18, 1896

 “RUSH THE BUILDING” (Oregon Statesman page 5)

“RUSH THE BUILDING” Such is the order that comes from Manager Thos. Kay

Who was in one of Little Rhody’s Capitals Yesterday – It’s Good News.

The following dispatch was received yesterday in this city.  It is self explanatory:

Providence RI, Jan 17, 1896

Thos. Kay Woolen Mill Co.

Salem, Oregon:

Have just bought one large set of worsted and two sets of woolen machinery.  Rush the building.  THOS. Kay

The above is most welcome news to the Salem people.  It means that the new woolen mill will be in operation a few months roll by and tat the work of constructing the new brick building, on the site of the one burned down last November, will begin immediately and the structure hurried to completion.

John Gray has the contract for the job, his bid being 8,000.

Let everybody rejoice.

The laying of the first brick on the new mill ought to be celebrated by the citizens in a most enthusiastic manner.  They can do it without one cent of expense.  Let them assemble on the spot and, as Mr. Gray spreads out the first trowel of mortar, send up a vigorous cheer that would fairly make Mt. Hood tremble.  The new mill means renewed business activity in Oregon’s capital city and employment for a hundred or more persons that now are practically idle.

January 22, 1896

HAULING THE BRICK (Oregon Statesman page 5)

HAULING THE BRICK – The brick – 150,000 in number – for the new woolen mill is being hauled in from the penitentiary kiln and placed on the grounds surrounding the site for the new structure.  Contractor Gray is arranging the preliminaries and will begin work on the foundation just as soon as the weather will permit.  A goodly portion of the iron, composting the ruins of the machinery in the former mill, has been removed by the junk dealers and will be shipped away at some time in the future.

At the Woolen Mill (Oregon Statesman page 5)

Machinery and Materials are ready for work

A start to be made this week and in a short time a full force will be employed.

On Monday the water was again turned into the Santiam mill race and this was the signal for work to begin at Salem’s most important manufacturing institution – the new woolen mills.  A large lot of wool is on hand and when the power was furnished, the scouring crew immediately began the work of cleaning the wool, preparatory to the starting of the carding machines.  The latter will be ready in two or three days to begin work and they will be followed a day or two later by the spinning mules.

Gradually the machinery will be started up, and in the course of two weeks, the mill be run in full force.  At the start the cards will be run day and night in order to fill up the sixteen looms as rapidly as possible.

Among the appliances and machinery in the new plant are two large pumps put in especially to quench any fire that might prevail, such as destroyed the old mill last November.  These pumps are located so that they can be operated from the outside of the buildings, thus preventing a recurrence of the condition existing last year when, on account of the smoke and fire in the wheel room, they could not be reached.  A friction clutch is an appliance used on the new pump in the wheel room, so that the turbine does not have to be shut down prior to getting the pump in operation.

The mill has its own electric light plant, an Edition dynamo, with a capacity fo 325 lights being used.  There are now about 150 incandescent lights in the mill, and a number have been placed in the Wallace cannery, which is being utilized for storage purposes.  The wires are all thoroughly and very carefully insulated, porcelain insulators being used wherever they are run through the walls of any of the buildings.  The greatest care has been exercised throughout, to make the danger from fire as little as possible, and it is to be hoped that the experience of last year will not be repeated again in the future history of the company.

The wool buyers of the mill have all returned home, having purchased a sufficient stock to keep the entire plant employed for the next seven or eight months.

About 100 people will be employed by the company when the plant is in complete working order, and this will start enough money moving in the channels of trade in this city, to be very materially felt by all of her different business houses and will be a lasting benefit.

January 31, 1896

The busiest scene in town (Oregon Statesman page 5)

Work on the New woolen Mill is progressing as rapidly as possible

About the busiest scene in the city these days….where twenty-five to thirty men are employed in the preliminary work incident to the building of the new structure.  A large part of the clearing and excavating has been done and the sub-basement wall of concrete has been put in under the eastern half of the building.  On top of this concrete foundation will be a stone wall nine feet high enclosing the main basement story.  The foundation piers of the old mill will be torn down and the rock thereof will be used in the new wall.  The floor in this basement will be of cement, sloped from all directions to the southeast corner, whence a sewer pipe will carry off all water.

The new mill will come much nearer Twelfth street than the old one did, its west line being within a short distance of the railroad  switch, which runs through the yard.  It will not extend as far east by some distance as the old mill did and there will consequently be quite a space between the mill and the boiler house and water wheel.***

Nearly 250,000 brick are now piled up under a shed ready for use and this will be increased to 300,000 in a few days.  Teams are busy hauling in all sorts of material, which is being place din convenient locations, so that when the mechanical work really begins, the building will proceed toward completion very rapidly.  Messrs. John Gray and Henry Luker, who are partners in the contract are giving personal attention to every movement and are anxious to get the job finished without delay.  They have plenty of applications for work and are sorry they cannot give employment to all who come.

March 11, 1896

At the woolen Mills (Capital Journal, page 4)

About forty men at work on the big building

Twelve brick layers are shoving up the walls of the new Salem Woolen Mills at  a rapid rate this fine weather.  The engine is running to drive a fan for the wool drying room where six hands are picking wool to have it in readiness for the spinners when the mills start up.

Four frame buildings are up and the big powerhouse for the waterwheels is going up.  Lumber for the wheel pit and penstock arrived today.  The old fifty horse power turbine will be put in, and a new improved seventy-five horse power wheel will also be put under the twelve foot head of water power.  A still smaller turbine will drive the dynamo for electric lights.

Henry Luker is foreman over the masonry work, and J. Cordingly general foreman on the grounds.  With fine weather a month will see all the structures enclosed.

***A note on terminology

The authors in these articles appear to use the terms “water wheel” and “turbine” interchangeably —  a practice that mill employees during operations and museum signs contribute to today.  The building in which the workings of our turbines are housed today is still called the “wheel house.”  This turn of phrase may lead to a false impression about the facilities at the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill.  The water power equipment installed at the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill (and for that matter its predecessor the Pioneer Oil Company) were metal turbines.   This is corroborated by the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps of 1888, 1890 and 1895 which are explicitly labelled as “turbine wheels.”  For more information between the design differences between a turbine and a waterwheel, check out this article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_turbine#Timeline.