Industry

Gilbert & Bennett Mfg Co (1818-1998)

The Gilbert & Bennett wire mill site is a 56-acre former industrial manufacturing campus situated in the southwest corner of the Town of Redding, Connecticut, in a village called Georgetown, 55 miles from New York City. For 150 years, the wire mill campus was a model of nineteenth- and twentieth-century industrial innovation. The company’s invention of wire mesh — used for window screens — led some to proclaim that G&B “invented summer.”

Gilbert & Bennett wire mesh; Brent Colley

The site and the surrounding vestiges of the mill community, including worker housing and the old schoolhouse built for the children of the mill workers, is a U.S. National Register of Historic Places district. Its 1986 application describes how the local, family-owned company grew and sustained the village of Georgetown:

Nineteenth-century Georgetown was substantially created by the Gilbert and Bennett Company. Although there is no reason to believe that Georgetown was a social experiment, or that there was a conscious attempt to create a planned industrial community there, the company played a major role in the social and economic structure of the village in the nineteenth century and established many of its major institutions.

Guided by nineteenth-century paternalism and enlightened self-interest which carried over well into the twentieth century, the company shaped a community which today resembles the rural industrial village of nineteenth-century Utopian ideology.

Though multiple development efforts have been attempted, the site has been derelict since the mill closed in 1989.

Will the future of Georgetown be driven by short-term developer returns benefitting a few, or the local, organic socioeconomic growth that we know sustains communities for generations?

Wire Drawing Building, Gilbert & Bennett