New Life Looming For Manayunk Yarn Mill

 

Wilde Yarn | Image: Bloomfield and Associates

A thoughtful mill-to-apartment conversion is in the works for the Wilde Yarn Mill on Main Street just above Kelly Drive in the southeastern corner of Manayunk. Construction is likely to begin on the 45-unit complex in spring 2013, according to the project’s developer Scott Janzen. The Wissahickon Neighbors Civic Association gave approval to the project during a meeting Monday night after the developer met the WNCA’s requirement that the project contain a parking space for each apartment unit.

Scott Janzen inside the Wilde Yarn Mill | Photo: Hidden City Daily

The project, which combines the sensitive preservation of the complex’s 1884 and 1932-era buildings with contemporary architectural additions, is meant to attract young professionals who work in Center City and the suburbs. From the Wissahickon Regional Rail station directly adjacent to the site, it’s a 15 minute ride to Market East.

“Everybody by and large thinks it’s a good development,” said Janzen. “The buildings aren’t looking their best anymore.”

Current Wilde Yarn exterior on Main Street | Photo: Hidden City Daily

Wilde Yarn | Image: Bloomfield and Associates

The oldest part of the mill, built in 1884, up the hill next to the Wissahickon train station | Photo: Hidden City Daily

The mill, which was owned by descendents of the founders John and Tom Wilde, was constructed in three phases: 1884, 1932, and 1984, the last part on the foundation of a Philadelphia Electric Company glass works. Though the operation had been dwindling in recent years, Wilde Yarn had remained in operation until 2008; for years it had been the oldest carpet yarn mill in operation in the US and it was the last completely intact textile mill of its kind in Philadelphia. Until recently filled with machinery to process raw wool into yarn for carpets, Wilde has often drawn the attention of industrial historians and photographers. (Check in later today for our photo collection on Wilde, including work from several photographers. See it HERE.)

Disassembling the Wilde Yarn machinery | Photo: Hidden City Daily

Janzen and his partner, the architect Peter Bloomfield, have enlisted the Mt. Airy-based furniture and lighting designer Robert True Ogden to disassemble the mill. Ralph Lauren’s Double RL stores will feature Odgen’s display cases and lighting made from repurposed Wilde equipment, most of which dates from the late 19th century to the 1930s.

For much of its history, Wilde was a fairly small operation among the dozens of mills and dye houses of Manayunk. After Dupont began marketing synthetic carpet fibers in the 1930s, Wilde became a specialty supplier of woolen yarn; among its last customers was the Navajo tribe, for the making of traditional blankets and carpets.

Janzen said he envisions building a 30 foot tall “totem pole” of gears and wheels salvaged from the mill as common area decoration and hopes to salvage the buildings’ maple flooring. He said it is likely they will pursue the nomination of the mill to the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that would make the project eligible for historic preservation tax credits.

“1884” — Wilde Yarn smokestack | Photo: Hidden City Daily

The project will be the largest Janzen, a real estate consultant, and the architect Bloomfield have done together.

Steve Currall contributed reporting to this article

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine. His essays and book reviews appear in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, The Millions, and Fanzine.



1 Comment


  1. Glad to see the old and new living side by side on this building. Well done !

Trackbacks

  1. Demolition for Church of the Assumption | Preventing demo of Bunting House | Wilde Yarn Mill residential reuse | Council shouldn’t diminish, politicize community role in zoning
  2. America’s Oldest Yarn Mill: A Portrait | Hidden City Philadelphia
Recent Posts
Report: Philly Lead Exposure Greater Than Flint

Report: Philly Lead Exposure Greater Than Flint

February 5, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Contextualizing the Philly lead exposure numbers, L&I moves to make demolition permit process more efficient, building a stealth tower by-right, and 20 units for starving artists coming to West Philadelphia > more

Naming The Nameless On Lincoln Drive

Naming The Nameless On Lincoln Drive

February 5, 2016  |  Vantage

An eye-catching installation of t-shirts on Lincoln Drive aims to give a name to each of the victims of the city's gun violence. Brad Maule visits the historic Unitarian Society of Germantown and soaks in a heavy and cathartic experience > more

After Trade, Bourse Business Model To Tempt Techies

After Trade, Bourse Business Model To Tempt Techies

February 4, 2016  |  Morning Blend

New owners to position Bourse building as tech start-up magnet, the PR game that Temple needs to play for its stadium, Mt. Airy USA’s Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub to launch tonight, and a post-storm sneckdown breakdown > more

Breaking Through Historic Preservation's Color Line

Breaking Through Historic Preservation’s Color Line

February 4, 2016  |  Developing Challenges, Vantage

Diversity in preservation is a tricky thing. When cultural history speaks more for a building than architecture merit ears often go deaf. Hidden City co-editor Michael Bixler sits down with All That Philly Jazz director Faye Anderson to discuss landmarking the former home of Malcolm X and the precarious nature of protecting Philadelphia's built African-American heritage > more

CDR Blasts

CDR Blasts “Amateurish” Design For Callowhill Mixed-Use

February 3, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Civic Design Review committee dismisses Callowhill mixed-use proposal, work on The Beacon begins at 16th & Walnut, Richard Allen memorialized on USPS stamp, and NextFab’s open studio sessions winding down > more

Restoring The Hale Building — Patina And All

Restoring The Hale Building — Patina And All

February 2, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Hale Building update, Bethel Burying Ground added to National Register of Historic Places, and Spring Garden warehouse to receive addition > more