Adams Mill Restaurant - History of the Mill
by The Adams Mill Restaurant and various other sources

Peter Adams was born in Forfarshire, Scotland, February 2nd in 1807. His parents were George and Louisa Adam. Peter was one of five children, of whom only he and two sisters reached maturity.

His first taste of the paper trade came when Peter was eight years old and worked in the paper mill of Robert Tullis and Co. He worked there for two years while attending night school, the only book education he ever had. His next job took him to a cotton and flax mill, where he stayed until the age of seventeen, becoming an apprentice to the paper-making trade.

Peter was twenty when he emigrated to the United States, a journeyman at the trade. It is at that time that the "s" was added to the name. He sailed from Greenoch, Scotland, on August 26, 1827, on the "Samuel Robinson" and landed in New York on October 4th. It is said that he arrived in this country "with a shilling and a jackknife," whereupon he threw the open jackknife and followed the direction it happened to point! His work in paper mills in this country began in October, 1827, for Henry Barclay, and continued for years in many mills where he headed departments, always moving upward with each new job.

Peter met a widow named Hannah Shaffer who stole his heart, and they were married on July 16, 1831. Together they had six children, but only one, Louisa, reached old age. Peter's first venture in mill ownership was in 1853, Adams, New York. He later sold that to make way for new investments. July 16, 1863, on their anniversary, Peter bought the mill in Buckland, Connecticut, and began manufacturing paper on January 1, 1864. The firm was first known as Adams and Ramage, but that partnership ended a year later when his son, Peter C. Adams, took over as partner.

The earliest industrial developments in Manchester were the various mills which began about 1672 and remained through the 1800's. These were due to the abundant water power available along the six mile course of the Hockanum River through town. The Adans Mill and earlier paper manufacturing operations owe their existence to the river which flows through the woods several hundred feet behind the building and cross under Adams Street about 500 feet south of the mill. The Hockanum, an old Indian name meaning "crooked and winding," originates as a river at the Snepsit Lake in Vernon and Tolland. From there, it courses through Ellington, Vernon, Manchester and East Hartford, to enter the Connecticut River next to the Charter Oak Bridge. Many dams were erected along the river to harness its power.

The Adams Paper Mill was established in 1863 by the purchase of existing mill buildings by Peter Adams. He made the first acquisition of 38 acres of land, a paper mill, and other buildings an Hockanum River water privileges from the National Band in Hartford for $15,000. Additional adjacent purchases of land, houses and barns were made between 1869 and 1876.

The Adams Mill flourished. By 1884, twenty years after the doors first opened, Peter Adams was known as one of the oldest and most successful paper manufacturers in the United States. The product of his mills was shipped all over the world and known for its excellence in quality and finish. His paper was used for printing of the official World's Fair catalogue in Paris in 1879 and he received a bronze medal in recognition. Peter received a silver medal in Austrailia for paper he did not know had been placed on exhibition! It is also known that Mark Twain used this paper for the writing of his books. Peter Adams, a man of unblemished reputation, died in 1896 in Paterson, New Jersey.

There was much damage done by a devastating flood in 1869 which disrupted many mills' operations, and destroyed all dams along the river but for one. Financial decline and failure closed most mills by the 1880's and 1890's, leaving a few old standing buildings, and many ruins along the river banks. The present Adams mill building is one of the best preserved structures close to the river, although most of the complex was destroyed by fire in 1897. A large pond, Adams Pond, created by an extensive system of dykes and a sandstone dam across the river, brought an abundant water suply right to the mill buildings. This dam and pond were destroyed in the 1938 hurricane. These historic stuctures are still visible behind the mill.

Until June of 1982, the presend building housed Stanford Washer and Mat, when it was bought by the present owners, Brad Morton and Tony Scarpace, for the purpose of a restaurant. The new owners have redone the entire building, leaving anything permanent in its original position, and retaining the integrity of the building. The brick walls were cleaned and the wood floors were taken up, turned over, and laid on a diagonal. The stairs to the cocktail lounge are in the exact location as they were when the building was a mill. The windows are in the same location, but the original panes have been replaced with thermopane for energy conservation. Even the beams holding the ceiling are original, but a new beam was added every other one for the additional support. Morton and Scarpace, owners of The Market in Glastonbury and The Bazaar in Southbury, were looking for "a unique spot" to house their newest restaurant, and it would have been difficult to find a building with more of a name and history!

The owners hope this answers any questions that you might have about Adams Mill, and that you may enjoy the building and history as much as the quality food and fine service.



(excerpts from the Connecticut Historical Commission Resources Inventory, 1998, for the Adams Mill Restaurant)

16. Interrelationship of Building and Surroundings: This building is situated on heavily travelled Adams Street in an area of mixed industrial/commercial use.

17. Other Notable Features of Building or Site: 165 Adams Street, the old Adams Paper Mill, is a substantial two-story brick masonry industrial building with a shallow gable roof, oriented with the long elevation to the street. The structure rests on a brick and stone foundation. The building incorporates a modern offset enclosed entry (front/right). Architectural features include modern sash in a 15-bay facade, granite sills and segmental-arch brick lintels, corbeled eaves, and brick cornice returns. A complementary flat-roofed addition at the right/rear repeats these architectural elements. The walls are pierced by iron tie rods and diamond-shaped archor plates. A second small industrial structure stands to the north of the main mill, a one-story gable-roofed brick building with cornice returns, slate roof, and circular window in the gable peak.

19. Historical or Architectural Importance: Buckland, an important early industrial area, lay west of Union Village, and eventually supported several manufacturing establishments, beginning with Richard Jones' paper mill (c.1780), as well as a powder mill, oil mill, and grist mill. The site passed through many owners during the nineteenth century: Joseph Chamberlain owned the property in the early 1820s. Peter Rogers and WIlliam Debit controlled the site c.1825 until 1836. In the late 1830s a partnership including Henry Champion, Samuel Maxon, Henry George, and Edwin Goodwin obtained control. Thereafter, George Goodwin and his sons operated the mill until 1861, updating the facility by installing coal-fired steam boilers c. 1850. The property later fell under the control of the National Exchange Bank of Hartford which in 1868 sold it to Peter Adams (born in Scotland in 1807) who rebuilt and expanded the site and continued to manufacture paper for several decades thereafter. Known as the Waverly Mills, this large industrial complex, of which only a small portion survives, made a specialty of high-quality paper.