Old Silk Mill turned apartments PA


Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania
Date added: August 17, 2023 Categories: Pennsylvania Textile Mill
View of north facade facing Southwest (1992)

The Diamond Silk Mill was one of four silk mills constructed between circa 1899 and 1904. Of the four turn-of-the-century mills, the Diamond Silk Mill was a far superior example of fine architecture, designed by the very talented local architect, John A. Dempwolf. The silk industry has played a leading role in the growth of York, and aided Pennsylvania's leading national role in the Silk Mill Manufacturing Industry. Silk mills played an important role in the growth of Lancaster's largest turn-of-the-century industry, the manufacture of umbrellas. As industries outside the city grew, the increased demand for labor fostered the development of East York.

It was significant that a company from Paterson, New Jersey, would choose York in which to locate a branch mill. Silk manufacturing began in Paterson as early as 1840, and by 1900 it was the center of the nation's silk industry; producing twenty-four and two-tenths-percent of the value of all silk goods produced in the United States. Paterson became the center of the silk industry for a number of reasons which were: its close proximity to New York City (the main silk market), the abundant waterpower produced by the Passaic River, the city's early start of power manufacturing, and the large supply of unskilled labor; much of which came from Italy and other European Countries. The 1900 Census of Manufacturers stated that the tendency of the silk industry was to spread from centralized areas to outlying locations. This explains why the silk goods sold there were produced in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. New York silk manufacturers moved their machinery to these two states because of cheaper rents and a large supply of labor in these areas. In 1900, the value of silk and silk goods sold and produced in these two states accounted for almost two-thirds of the total for the United States.

York itself was a logical choice for silk manufacturing because of its close proximity to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The local silk industry fed Lancaster's most important turn-of-the-century industry, the manufacture of umbrellas. In 1900, Lancaster had six umbrella factories, a few being cottage industries employing fifteen percent of the city's industrial workforce. Lancaster, by the 1920s, produced more umbrellas than any other city in the United States. Two of Lancaster's umbrella factories, Rose Brothers & Company and Follmer Clogg & Company, are still extant.

The manufacture of silk steadily grew to become one of York's most important industries.

In 1900, only two silk mills were in operation in York. By 1904, four silk mills in York employed eleven hundred twenty-one people and were putting out products worth over three million dollars. The amount of capital invested in these four mills was one million six hundred seventy thousand dollars. By 1913, there were seven silk mills in operation. The silk industry reached its peak in 1928 with twelve silk mills. The number of operating mills decreased in the early years of the Depression, and finally, the manufacture of silk declined in the late 1930s; due to the introduction of synthetic fibers. Most silk mills in York did not have the equipment to produce these new products.

It is evident from this chronology, that the majority of silk mill construction occurred in three phases. The first phase occurred circa 1900 when four silk mills were built. The Diamond Silk Mill, the Monarch Silk Mill, and the York Silk Mill were all constructed in 1900 or 1901. The Ashley & Bailey Silk Mill was built circa 1899.

The second phase of the construction occurred between circa 1911 and 1923. During this period of time, three silk mills were built. These include: the E. & H. Levy Company Silk Mill, the Souter Silk Company Mill, and the Rutland Silk Company Mill. The E. & H. Levy Company is significant in that, during its entire operation, it only manufactured silk ribbons. It was the first silk mill in York to specialize by making only one silk product.

The third and final phase of silk mill construction was from circa 1927 and 1935. During this period, five mills were built. These include: the Eberton Silk Mill, the H. W. G. Silk Mill, the Tioga Silk Company Inc. Mill, the Kroy Corporation Silk Mill, and the Blue Bird Silk Mill.

While the circa 1900 silk mills do not have exclusively distinctive shape and design, when compared to contemporary industrial building, they do share several characteristics. For example, all were located at or near the city lines; encircling the city in effect.

Also, the City's early silk mills were tall, narrow buildings, standing three to four stories on sloped lots. Some, however, were built to conform to square lots. The U-shaped Monarch Silk Mill and the L-shaped E. & H. Levy Company building are two examples. The York Silk Mill originally had a linear plan before an extensive wing was added to create a U-shape. These mills are constructed of brick and have heavy timber frames on the interior.

The Diamond Silk Mill was designed in 1900 by John A. Dempwolf, York County's leading architect. Among his notable works in the City of York are, the County Courthouse (1898), Central Market (1887), and the Fluhrer Building (1911). His designs can also be found in Harrisburg, Gettysburg, northern Maryland, and Pittsburgh.

John A. Dempwolf was responsible for designing a number of York's turn-of-the-century mills and factory buildings. Many of them display Romanesque arches, like those on the Diamond Silk Mill. The mill's most notable stylistic elements are the two towers, which resemble those on York's Central Market Building. All in all, the Diamond Silk Mill is one of Dempwolf's most distinctive industrial buildings. Because it is one of the tallest buildings in York's east end, it occupies a prominent position on the city's skyline.

Building Description

The former Diamond Silk Mill is a three-and-one-half story, fifty-foot by three hundred foot rectangular building with a two-in-twelve pitched hip roof.

The building rests on an approximately two-foot wide stone foundation, which supports the exterior bearing wall construction of the building. The interior bays, two transverse and thirty-seven longitudinal, consist of ten inches by ten inches wood timber columns with ten inches by fourteen inches heavy timber beams.

The floor construction consists of three layers of tongue and groove flooring, installed perpendicular to each other creating a composite floor, averaging three and one-half inches. The wood floor is topped with a one-inch layer of light weight concrete.

The roof sheathing consists of tongue and groove boards spanning perpendicular to the rafters. The roofing material consists of several layers of build-up roofing, one-half inch composite board with a finished surface of six mil thick seamless rubber roof.

The interior walls consist of four-inch steel studs spaced on an average of about one-half inch from the inside face of the masonry wall. Steel studs are covered with one-half-inch Gypsum wallboard, which runs continuously along all interior walls and returns into the window exposing the brick jamb and arch. The existing masonry within this reveal has been painted to complement the color of the drywall.

The underside of the tongue and groove floorboards are concealed by a suspended Gypsum wallboard ceiling at eight feet above the finished floor. The ceiling is supported by steel hat channels and is continuous throughout all floors. The ceiling intersects a bulkhead four feet from the exterior wall. This bulkhead is constructed of drywall and extends vertically where it meets drywall secured to channels on the underside of the original deck.

The main south facade rises three and one-half stories from the foundation to a decorative corbeled brick cornice. The site gradually slopes from east to west exposing a random ashlar limestone water table foundation. This ashlar limestone water table is contiguous on all sides of the building; broken only by openings. The water table does not occur at the pavilion and/or the base of the smokestack. The trusses are constructed of heavy timber members using steel tie rods as truss stiffeners. The trusses as well as the floor beams bear on exterior bearing walls (pilasters).

Generally, there is one window penetration per bay. The windows vary in height from floor to floor; being slightly smaller on the upper floor. They are twelve over twelve muntined wood double-hung window units set generally two inches in from the face of the masonry. The window units follow a contour of spring arch of the masonry, but are a square head sash with a wood panel in the arched spring. The segmentally arched window openings are set in thirty-seven regularly spaced bays. The openings decrease in height from the first to the third floors. The east end has transomed double doors at the center of each level with two window units to the north and to the south of each door.

The north elevation has a three-story pavilion that is located near the center of the building. A white silhouette is painted on the north facade to illustrate the location of the former boiler room.

Slightly east of the center of the building, on the north facade, rises an octagonal smokestack. A one hundred and ten foot (110'-0") high tower rises from both the northeast and northwest corners of the structure. The tower is capped with a hip roof covered in a shingle of a color resembling that of the original slate. Marching along the top of the towers are a series of arched-headed windows, generally two feet wide by nine feet high. The stair towers consist of exposed brick walls with a ninety-degree winding stair; supported from landing to landing eliminating the requirements for columns. Located within the center of the winding stair is an open well. Wood guards and rails consist of solid vertical boards painted.

The former office area for the complex was located in the ground floor level, east end of the building. Its location is enhanced with a Romanesque entrance consisting of a brick soldier-coursed arch leading to a recessed alcove area ten feet by ten feet. On the inside wall of the alcove area, framed within the large Romanesque opening, are four smaller-scale arched windows. This former office area now houses a living unit. The existing coffered wood ceiling as well as stained window casings, jamb returns, sills, and wainscoting remain throughout the majority of the unit. The ground floor level of the building houses living units, as well as storage. The upper floor utilizes a double-loaded corridor concept meandering from north to south of the column bays.

To provide vertical transportation, a twenty-five-hundred-pound hydraulic elevator was installed in the center of the building. The existing stair towers on the east and west ends of the building as well as the center stair remain, and are used for ambulatory tenants as well as emergency egress, A double-door vestibule arrangement leading to the main entrance was installed at the center of the north facade. Mailboxes and security systems are located within the vestibule. Directly within the inside door of the vestibule is located the office area for the complex. Building services are located in the ground floor of the building.

Upon exhaustive investigation, the developer was unable to satisfy the parking requirements for the City. Therefore, it was determined that the razing of the original powerhouse building, as well as the later additions, would be required.

Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania Original office entrance arch, west facade (1992)
Original office entrance arch, west facade (1992)

Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania View of main south facade looking East on Hay Street (1992)
View of main south facade looking East on Hay Street (1992)

Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania View from corner of Ridge Avenue and Hay Street facing Northeast (1992)
View from corner of Ridge Avenue and Hay Street facing Northeast (1992)

Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania View from corner of Franklin Street and Hay Street facing Northwest, tower in foreground (1992)
View from corner of Franklin Street and Hay Street facing Northwest, tower in foreground (1992)

Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania View of north facade facing Southwest (1992)
View of north facade facing Southwest (1992)

Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania View of north facade facing Southwest (1992)
View of north facade facing Southwest (1992)

Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania View of north facade facing Southwest (1992)
View of north facade facing Southwest (1992)

Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania View of Northeast corner of Building facing Southwest (1992)
View of Northeast corner of Building facing Southwest (1992)

Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania View of Northwest tower facing Southwest (1992)
View of Northwest tower facing Southwest (1992)

Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania View of former entrance archway facing Southeast (1992)
View of former entrance archway facing Southeast (1992)

Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania View of north facade facing Southeast, tower in foreground (1992)
View of north facade facing Southeast, tower in foreground (1992)

Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania View of entrance and canopy looking South (1992)
View of entrance and canopy looking South (1992)

Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania Ground floor facing South, view of Community Room (1992)
Ground floor facing South, view of Community Room (1992)

Diamond Silk Mill - York Silk Manufacturing Company, York Pennsylvania View of ground floor storage room looking Southeast (1992)
View of ground floor storage room looking Southeast (1992)