Adams Mill Dams

Manchester, Connecticut
The old abandoned Adams Mill dams in Manchester, Connecticut once generated power for a legendary mill that produced world-class paper.
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About This Location

The old abandoned Adams Mill in Manchester, Connecticut, is a hidden gem with a rich history and intriguing remnants of its industrial past. Nestled behind what was once a world-class paper mill, this site now boasts several abandoned dams and structures that can be explored along the Adams Mill Trail.

The adventure begins at the Adams Mill, which has undergone a transformation from its industrial heyday to its current incarnation as the Elicit Brewing Company and Beer Garden. The historic mill building, which produced top-quality paper for many years, stands as a testament to the town’s industrial heritage. Before 2019, it was known as the Adams Mill Restaurant, a beloved staple of the community. However, for those seeking a different kind of adventure, the allure lies beyond the brewery.

The Adams Mill Trailhead, located adjacent to the mill building, serves as the gateway to the abandoned dams and structures. While an old mill building near the trailhead seems to be undergoing renovation, the focus shifts to finding the three unique abandoned dams within the vicinity. Trail information, maps, and historical context can be found here, offering a glimpse into the past of this industrial site.

As you start along the trail, you’ll find yourself walking parallel to the mill restaurant, providing a unique view into the beer garden at the back of the building. The trail then takes you over the first abandoned dam, offering a remarkable perspective on the remnants of this once-functional structure. Iron pipes and the remains of the dam’s walls tell the story of its role in managing the flow of the Hockanum River, a crucial aspect of the paper production process. Imagining the bustling activity of the dam in its prime is both captivating and humbling.

To appreciate the significance of the Adams Mill, it’s essential to delve into its history. In the 19th century, dams and dikes were constructed along the Hockanum River to harness water power for mill machinery. However, a devastating flood in 1869 destroyed all the dams except the Union Pond Dam. In 1863, Peter C. Adams acquired the mill and its surrounding land, gradually expanding his holdings. The present Elicit Brewing Company building, constructed in 1880, is a testament to the mill’s success under Adams’ ownership. His paper achieved international acclaim, with notable uses including the official World’s Fair catalogue in Paris in 1879 and even Mark Twain’s choice for his literary works. Despite this success, financial decline eventually led to the closure of most mills in Connecticut by the late 19th century, leaving behind a few well-preserved structures and many ruins, including the Adams Mill.

Returning to the present-day exploration, one encounters the massive abandoned dam building reclaimed by nature. The absence of “no trespassing” signs suggests that it’s open for exploration, but caution is paramount when venturing into abandoned places. Such locations may harbor hazards like sharp objects, discarded debris, and potential encounters with others. Thankfully, during this visit, the site remains undisturbed.

As you approach the dam building, its sheer size becomes apparent, and the relentless march of nature’s reclamation is evident. Exploring the interior reveals a small brick building at the top and a network of tunnels below. Manholes and ladders provide access between sections, though their stability is questionable. The rusted steel bars that once served as windows offer a view of the nearby river. This area was once the main wheelhouse of the dam, though now it stands empty. The silence, broken only by the sound of flowing water nearby, adds an eerie atmosphere. Below the wheelhouse lie the remnants of the old sandstone tunnel systems, surprisingly still sturdy despite the passage of many years. Graffiti and vandalism are evident, signs of previous explorers drawn to the site’s mysterious allure.

Exploring the abandoned dams of the former Adams Mill in Manchester, Connecticut, is not just a journey into the past but also a captivating adventure in the present. It’s a reminder of the town’s industrial heritage and the enduring allure of abandoned places waiting to be rediscovered.


Address: Adams Street, Manchester, Connecticut
Place GPS Coordinates: 41.789083, -72.548833
Parking GPS Coordinates: 41.789083, -72.548833
Parking Notes: Visitors can park in the northern most parking area at Elicit Brewing Co. The parking lot is located right in front of the trailhead to the old mill dams.

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