Industrial Archaeology

Colonial New England had simple sawmills and gristmills, but 19th-century waterpowered industries expanded to include a vast array of factories, such as ironworks and large textile factories. Documenting and interpreting the remains of industrial sites requires specialized expertise in changing waterpower technology and mechanization.

AHS has nominated many industrial archaeological sites to the National Register of Historic Places, including an 18th-century ironworks, an early 19th-century knife factory, textile mills, a fish hatchery, and buried railroad roundhouses and turntables.

Featured Project

Jillson Hill Bridge Project

The construction for the Thread City Crossing Bridge in Willimantic, Connecticut, locally known as the Frog Bridge, was coordinated with archaeological studies requested by the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office, in order to mitigate effects on buried mill complex remains. The area has archaeological sensitivity for historic-period resources as the location of Asa, Seth, and William Jillson’s first cotton mill in the 1820s, one of Willimantic’s earliest textile enterprises. AHS exposed stone walls that marked the foundations of manufacturing buildings and a former company house for millworkers, as well as a gatehouse, headrace, and remnants of a waterpower turbine. 

Other Project Examples

Wyoming Bridge Replacement

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation planned the replacement of two historic bridges over the Wood River in Hopkinton and Richmond. The historically significant portions of the bridges will be preserved beneath a new steel span, but there would be significant impacts to the surrounding landscape. AHS completed an archaeological survey of the project area, which falls within the National Register-listed Wyoming Village Historic District. The survey area included sections of the 18th-century Brand Iron Works, a 19th-century mica mill, and a blacksmith shop. Using machine-assisted trenching and shovel test pits, we identified three historic-period industrial sites and a pre-colonial site within the project area.


Shelton Canal Riverwalk

AHS conducted an archaeological survey of a proposed riverwalk along the Housatonic River in western Connecticut. The riverwalk is within the Shelton Canal Industrial District, which is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.



For more information on AHS’s experience and capabilities, visit our expertise page.