The Norad Mill, located at 60 Roberts Drive, is one of the oldest surviving mill buildings in North Adams and now houses a variety of local businesses. Sanford Blackinton was president of the North Adams Woolen Company and one of the area’s wealthiest manufacturers in the mid-nineteenth century. He owned numerous properties in North Adams but needed to expand even more as his company grew. Norad Mill was commissioned by Blackinton in 1863 to meet the high demand for cotton products during the Civil War for Union soldiers requiring uniforms and blankets. This growing demand caused the local woolen industry to boom.
Blackinton was already a successful businessman and thus had access to the materials, markets, and money needed to expand at this time. He had stock in the railroad from Albany to Boston that ran through North Adams which ensured easy transport for his goods. Blackinton was also able to use his connections to acquire cheap wool during a time when prices were rising. The completion of Norad Mill relatively early in the Civil War allowed Blackinton to outpace his competitors who had yet to expand their businesses.
The main section of the mill was completed in 1863. Additions were made from 1898 to 1904 to the west and south ends of the complex. Each addition is distinctive in its own way with varying architectural styles.
Blackinton’s North Adams Woolen Company was restructured as the North Adams Manufacturing Company in 1877, still under his ownership and Norad Mill remained functioning under the new company name. At its peak in the 1890s, 225 people worked in the mill, producing half a million dollars worth of expensive wool products annually. Norad Mill was one of the largest wool mills in the country and thus became a center for wool production in the region as smaller plants shut down. Through the coming decades, other woolen mills would become increasingly larger, outpacing the scale of Norad Mill. However, Norad Mill continued to remain profitable for several decades due to the variety in the woolen goods produced there.
After a slow but steady decline, however, Norad Mill was sold to a realty company in 1947. William B. Roberts bought the mill in 1954 to expand his own company, Excelsior Printing Company. Excelsior was never a truly successful business until Roberts’ prompted this expansion. Upon returning from service in the US Air Force during World War II, Roberts took direct leadership of Excelsior. He spent over $400,000 to renovate the old Norad Mill and purchase new printing equipment. His investment eventually paid off; by 1960, Norad Mill housed 65 employees producing $1,000,000 worth of products annually.
Excelsior made a significant amount of its profit providing printed goods to local buyers. A third of Excelsior’s annual profits came from sales to local schools and colleges. Excelsior only occupied the first and second floors of the main mill building. The rest of Norad Mill was rented out to other North Adams businesses such as Hunter Machine Company, Central Radio, Wayside Furniture, and Greylock Engraving. Excelsior Printing was bought out by Crane & Co in 1969 but the name Excelsior Printing was preserved.
David Crane acquired Excelsior Printing Company from Crane & Co in 2005. Excelsior also acquired Seed Print and Oatmeal Studios which produce printed seed packets and greeting cards respectively.
After the relocation of Excelsior out of North Adams, Moresi Commercial Investments LLC purchased the mill from Crane Currency in 2017. After extensive renovations, the mill is now home to over 40 small businesses and promises “the Main Street experience under one roof.”