By William E. Barrett – United States Library of Congress
At one time, dozens of water powered textile mills lined Maryland’s rivers. Surrounded by villages populated by mill workers, they were the center of industrial life. Now almost all the mills are gone…but Historic Savage Mill remains.
Historic Savage Mill had its beginning in 1810 when Commodore Joshua Barney, a hero of the Revolutionary Navy, settled in Howard County. He quickly saw the power potential of the Little Patuxent River and began assembling land along its rapids. The Savage Mill complex was started in early 1822 when Commodore Joshua Barney’s son-in-law, Nathaniel Williams, along with his brothers George, Cumberland, and Amos, began building a textile mill near the joining of the Middle and Little Patuxent Rivers. They used Barney’s millrace as the power source. The company was named after John Savage of Philadelphia, who was a friend of George Williams and had loaned money for the project. Typical of the times, entire families worked at the mill. The hours were long and the work arduous. Though life was hard for the mill workers, Savage Mill cared for its own. The company store provided most of life’s necessities, the farm supplied fresh produce and the ice plant furnished ice for the homes. By the early 1920s the workers homes had been connected to the mill’s water system, serviced by the mill’s sewage system and received light by factory generated electricity. The company even built a community hall that boasted a bowling alley and a free library.
Today, many generations of the early mill families still live in the village of Savage and the library is now part of the Howard County library system. In 1859 the original Savage Manufacturing holdings were sold in two parts. The buyer was William H. Baldwin, Jr. of Anne Arundel County. The seller was Nathaniel Williams, who was now nearing his 80th year and was the sole surviving member of the Williams brothers who began the company. With the looming threat of the Civil War and a vision of harder times to come, Mr. Baldwin appears to have let his new holdings remain idle for many years. However, in the early 1870s major changes were made to the water source and to the method of relaying power to the buildings. A new wheelhouse was built at the river’s edge. Power was transferred by a set of belts operated from a pulley that was driven by a water turbine.
Beginning around 1915 and continuing through 1923 numerous changes were made at the factory and within the village in response to the demand generated by World War I and the subsequent economic prosperity. In 1915 a new steam operated electric plant was built over the river and a new weaving room of approximately 40,000 square feet was added to the mill. New warehouses went up and several small bungalows were constructed around the village. The mill and the village suffered along with the rest of the nation through the depression, but World War II brought full production once again.
In 1947, one hundred and twenty-five years after its inception, the Savage Manufacturing Company ceased operations. With labor union problems, depressed economic times, and an excess of war surplus in the textile market, the factory was no longer viable; the entire factory complex and factory owned residential units were advertised for sale.
In 1948 Harry H. Heim, a manufacturer of Christmas ornaments, purchased the Savage Company. Mr. Heim had a vision of a year-round Christmas Village and endeavored to change the town name to Santa Heim, Merryland. Mr. Heim’s financial ability did not match his promotional flair and in 1949 the mill went up for sale again.
In 1950 the Winer brothers, Hyman, Ephraim, and Albert, purchased the mill buildings and used them for furniture manufacturing. The village was sold off piecemeal, thus giving the villagers their first opportunity to own their own homes. Today, the village of Savage is a fascinating mixture of old Savage Company houses and more recently developed homes.
The renovation of Savage Mill by four Baltimore businessmen began in 1985 and continued for seven years, while artists and other small businesses began to move in. ·
Historic Savage Mill is on the National Register of Historic places and is recognized by experts from the Smithsonian Institution as an outstanding example of a 19th century manufacturing center.
Today, Historic Savage Mill not only weaves the beautiful magic of a historic landmark, but also offers a truly unique shopping experience. In 2020, Savage Mill signed one of their most anticipated businesses yet: Dive Bar and Grill. It’s crazy to think that during a pandemic, a restaurant would even think about opening. But seeing how strong the community of Savage and Howard County is, Dive Bar made the decision to bring their fantastic food to Savage Mill.
Over the past 30 years shops have come and gone, but Historic Savage Mill’s messaging has remained true: Shop Small, Shop Local. We believe in helping small businesses succeed and making entrepreneurs’ dreams come true.
The historic complex of buildings with over 175,000 square feet is now home to major collector quality antique centers, home furnishing stores, craft galleries, artist studios, specialty shops, destination restaurants and banquet facilities.
Start from the ground up
The mill property is part of a land grant named Ridgely’s Forest by Colonel Henry Ridgely.
The Bare Bones
Alexander Warfield constructed an early mill along the river at the falls and passed it along to his sons Brice Warfield and John Worthington.
The mill was not run profitable and was sold to Francis Simpson.
Wedding Bells are ringing
Now patented by Commodore Joshua Barney, he gives the land as a wedding gift to Nathaniel Williams and Caroline Nee.
U.S. Navy Portrait
Time to break land
Nathanial and his brothers Amos and Cumberland begin building what we now know as Savage Mill.
Carding Building built
Before it was called the Carding Building, it was just called Savage Mill! It was built from the stone right out of the river bed. The first product they made was Canvas Sail Cloth powered by a 30 foot water wheel.
Oops! Need more money
The Williams brothers borrow $20,000.00 from Mr. John Savage of Philadelphia. They named the Company, “The Savage Manufacturing Company.”
John Savage Dies
Mr. John Savage Sr. dies. Now the post office moved from Waterloo to Savage Factory.
B&O Railway Connection
For imports and exports, the Bollman Bridge was connected to the B&O Railway. Fun fact! B&O Railway had almost 100 connections throughout the U.S.
Mr. John Savage Jr. and his infant son file suit on the Williams for nonpayment of their debt to Mr. Savage. The mill is then put up for sale by the court.
A new owner is coming to town
The mill is bought by Mr. William Baldwin for $42,000.00.
Civil War Starts
With the new war on the rise, textiles were high in demand. This product was used for tents, cannon covers and other supplies for Civil War armies.
Time for many additions
The “Old” Weave Building, Tower, Spinning Building, Paymaster’s Office and the Steam Power Plant were all built.
Let there be steam!
With the installation of steam power, the operations of the mill were going a lot faster.
World War 1
Textiles were produced for canvas cots, truck covers and transport bags used by U.S. soldiers in Europe.
Cotton Shed and New Weave Building were built
It’s hard to believe that it’s 100 years between these buildings and our original Carding Building! These new additions brought electric power to the mill and the town. Fun fact! One of the largest looms in the US was installed in the New Weave Building. It could produce sheets of canvas 17 feet 3 inches wide.
World War II Needs help!
During WWII, 400 hundred workers produce 400,000 of canvas a month for the war effort.
Time to say goodbye
The mill’s machinery is worn out and expensive to replace, surplus canvas goods are being released to bargain basement prices, the synthetic fabrics are taking over the market, and the worker’s wages are going up. All of this combined made the mill go out of business and is sold to Harry Hiems of Santa Novelties.
Harry Heim purchased the Mill and turned it into one of the first Christmas Bazaars in the country! He owned two ornament factories, one in Baltimore and one in San Diego. Harry always wore a Santa suit while in the mill. He wanted to change the name of Savage to Santa Hiem Merreland. Some nearby families even have some of the original ornaments!
Circus came to town!
Harry Heim was always trying to find something to bring the crowds in. What did he do? He brought a circus into the mill! Could you imagine having a giant elephant in the old weave building??
The Winer Family bought the mill! Today, it is still being run by the grandson of the owner in 1950!
Winer Family gave Bollman Bridge to Howard County
Fun fact! The original colors of the bridge were cream and light maroon.
By Kjssws – Own work – original photograph
This was around the time that antiques were getting more popular. So the Winer family brought in other investors to make it into an antique mall and storage area.
We are now a historic property
After 6 months of applications, Savage Mill was official put on the National Historic Register.
By William E. Barrett – United States Library of Congress
To turn it more into a retail style destination, the Winer Family started renovating each of the buildings.
New Weave Opens to the Public
Grand opening of our retail center!
Antiques turned retail
While we still have plenty of antique stores, we also have an array of unique shops!
We did our final renovations and opened for businesses, services, retail, restaurant and even a banquet hall.