Eli Terry Jr. Water Wheel, Plymouth
I’m sure I’ve written before how Plymouth really should have just been called Terryville. At some point I looked at a map and realized that the “Terryville section of Plymouth” is pretty much the whole of Plymouth. And, of course, everyone from Plymouth says they’re from Terryville anyway.
But more importantly, Eli Terry, Jr. lived here and Junior is the son of Senior who introduced mass production to the art of clockmaking, which made clocks affordable for the average American citizen. Terry (Senior) occupies an important place in the beginnings of the development of interchangeable parts manufacturing. Terry (again, Senior) is considered the first person in American history to actually accomplish interchangeable parts with no government funding.
But it’s Junior with a “census designated place” named after him.
And a water wheel prominently displayed in the heart of that census designated place right on Route 6.
This 20-foot-in-diameter water wheel has a gear around the circumference that adds speed to the shaft which was used to operate the machinery of one of America’s first lock factories, Lewis Lo Co., in the early 1850’s.
Plymouth’s town website claims that this wheel is the only original one of its kind left in the country, making it a special attraction. I find that claim to be a bit of a stretch. However, the sign on the site states that “the Eli Terry Jr. Water Wheel is believed to be one of only two water wheels of its type in the United States.”
Originally it supplied power to the Terry Clock Shop located on this property. In the early 1830’s the manufacture of locks began. By 1845 over one half million locks were made in Terryville. The business employed 38 people. By 1854 the Eagle Lock Company had been formed. Eagle Lock would eventually employ 1800 people. The company ceased operation in 1975, but you know what’s right down the street from the water wheel, right?
The Lock Museum of America of course! (Love that place.)
Moving on to Wikipedia… “The Terryville Waterwheel is a historic industrial water wheel at the Pequabuck River and Main Street in the Terryville… it is one of three surviving 19th-century water wheels in the state. Okay, so we went from one of a kind in the US to one of two in the US to one of three in the state. (It also was very likely built for the later lock outfit and not the earlier clock factory, but… I’m not concerned about that.)
It’s big! It is 22 feet in diameter and 7 feet wide, and is sheltered by a form-fit shelter erected in 1951. Most of the wheel’s parts are pressure-treated wood, replacing original materials in a 1990-91 restoration. Cool. But this page exists because of its… “superlativity.” But as I keep reading and learning more about it, the thing becomes less and less “superlativy”…
From the Connecticut Preservation folks: The Terryville Waterwheel is the most nearly intact of the three known 19th-century wooden waterwheels remaining in Connecticut.
Well, before I diminish the thing too much, the Lock Museum’s site has this whopper: Terryville is probably the only village in the United States with a Water Wheel on its Main Street! That’s… just ridiculous.
And I love it.