A Woolen Mill Was Once Provo’s Largest Business.
In order to help correct the negative cash flow going out of Utah Territory in 1868, Provo‘s mayor, Abraham O. Smoot, urged residents to establish a large, cooperative woolen mill.
When President Brigham Young promised that the LDS Church would help pay for the project, the new woolen mill was assured. Mayor Smoot selected the block north of the current Marriott Hotel as the site for the mill.
During the winter of 1869-1870, workmen excavated the basement for the mill’s main building. On May 28, 1870, A.O. Smoot laid the cornerstone for the building, which was to be made of rock. Andrew Hunter Scott served as general superintendent of construction.
Masons laid walls for the basement and three stories. A fourth story lay under the building’s Mansard roof. Eventually, two additional large, two story structures and other outbuildings became part of the compound. The millrace then running down 200 West furnished the power to run the mill.
Weavers manufactured the mill’s first cloth in June, 1873. The Provo Manufacturing Company produced blankets, flannels, material for men’s suits and women’s dresses and shawls, and yard of all colors and grades.
The mill even produced carpet. One thousand yards of its carpet covered the floors of the Saint George Temple.
The mill was an economic boom to Provo. In 1879 it employed 125 people, and townspeople accepted factory script as currency. Much of the woolen mill’s cloth was exported to parts of the West and Midwest.
In 1916 the mill received a government contract to make cloth for military uniforms, and the future looked bright. Then on July 30, 1918, fire almost totally destroyed the mill.
The business operated at a diminished level until the economic downturn of the 1930s forced it to close its doors.