Star of the West Flour Mill

Description

What's in a name? The city of Kent has identified with various names and nicknames throughout its establishment in 1805. Originally know as Franklin Mills, the city was once a thriving industrial town. The mills located on the banks of the Cuyahoga River brought money, people and pride to this northern Portage County settlement. Overlooking the Cuyahoga River is the Star of the West Flour Mill (originally known as the Williams Brothers Mill). It is the only fully functional mill left in the city of Kent.

Established in 1879 by the Williams Brothers, the Star of the West specializes in producing flour and tops fifteen million dollars in sales each year. Other prominent mills of the past include the Kent Mill, also a flour mill, and the Alpaca Mill which originally specialized in milling silk.

The mills of Kent have left a lasting impression on the city. Water power for the mills was harnessed from the Cuyahoga River with the construction of the Kent Dam in 1836. Reliance on the Cuyahoga, however, did not come without a price. In 1913, the river flooded and wiped out many of the mills on the riverbanks, including the Kent mill. Once the pride of the area, the Kent mill stopped running after the flood and was torn down in 1931.

Early on, goods from Kent's mills were shipped via the Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal which ran parallel to the Cuyahoga. The canal was short lived and shipping methods were replaced when prominent banker Marvin Kent brought the Atlantic & Great Western Railroad to town in 1863. Mr. Kent's rail lines had a tremendous impact on the city and in 1864 Franklin Mills was renamed Kent in honor of him. Today, Kent is still a flourishing community with a history as rich as they come. Meanwhile, the Star of the West Flour Mill continues to carry on the traditions of the city's earliest industrial history into the 21st century.

Photos Show

Sole Survivor, 2011

Located just off the tracks of the former Erie Railroad lines, the Star of the West Flour Mill is the only original, fully functioning flour mill left in the city of Kent. Established in 1879, this mill is the heart of the city, as it reminds citizens of Kent's early roots. The grain elevator featured in this photo was constructed in 1936. It is the city's second tallest standing structure and can store 140,000 bushels of grain. The Star of the West specializes in producing cake and pastry flour and is thriving, topping fifteen million dollars in annual sales.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Mauger

Location is Key

Established in 1879, the Williams Brothers Mill was one of the most successful businesses in Kent. This early photo of the mill shows its proximity to the Cuyahoga River, the Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal, and the Erie Railroad. Clearly, this was an ideal location for easily moving goods in and out of the mill. The Williams Brothers sold their mill to the Star of the West Company in 1999. It is still in operation today.

Photo courtesy of Kent Historical Society.

Alpaca Mill

Located on the western bank of the Cuyahoga River, the Alpaca Mill was one of the earliest mills to be established in Kent. The mill's construction began in 1837 and was not fully completed until 1879. The Alpaca Mill was originally a silk mill whose owners planted mulberry bushes along the banks of the Cuyahoga River with high hopes of turning the region into a destination for the production of silk. It soon turned out, however, that the silkworms inhabiting the bushes could not survive the cold Ohio winters, spelling the end of these plans.

After the silk mill failed, the building later became a cotton mill, wool (or alpaca) mill, dress factory, machine shop, furniture factory, torque convertor factory and finally a paper box plant. This structure is "Kent to the core," as it is constructed from brick made in a local brick yard. The building now houses apartments.

Photo courtesy of the Kent Historical Society

Mill Workers

Kent's early economy thrived on its many mills which were powered by the mighty Cuyahoga. Popular mills of the area included flour mills, grist mills and woolen mills. The workers in this photo pose after a hard day's work. Mill work was challenging, and it shows in the worn clothing and tired faces of these men.

What does the sign say, Can you figure out what type of mill this was by reading it,

Image courtesy of the Kent Historical Society

Kent Grist Mill

Established in 1832, the Kent Flour Mill (on the right) was once the pride of Franklin Township. It stood on the western bank of the Cuyahoga and ran until the river flooded in 1913. Standing to the left of the mill in this photograph is the town's tannery, which was operated for a time by famous abolitionist John Brown. Both these buildings have since been torn down.

Image courtesy of Kent Historical Society

Erie Depot

When the Atlantic & Great Western Railroad (later named the Erie Railroad) came to Kent in 1863, the city was transformed. The Erie Depot featured in this photo is one of Kent's greatest accomplishments and one of the most recognizable structures in the city. Overlooking the Kent Dam, this two story depot housed a ticket and telegraph office on the first floor as well as waiting rooms and an elegant restaurant. The second floor consisted on living quarters for the restaurant manager and a reading room for railroad workers.

Image courtesy of the Kent Historical Society

Withstanding the Test of Time

Today, the former Erie Depot still overlooks the Cuyahoga River and is the home of the Pufferbelly Restaurant. Withstanding the test of time, the train station in Kent is a symbol of the city's stong economic roots and long standing history. CSX trains still run on the lower level tracks, formerly the Baltimore & Ohio railroad.

Image courtesy of Ashley Mauger

Cite this Page

“Star of the West Flour Mill,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 29, 2014, http:/​/​clevelandhistorical.​org/​items/​show/​278.​
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