Bank Street fire house

The Bank Street fire house is pictured here in 1908.

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History of Windham

For well over 100 years, Willimantic, Connecticut was known worldwide as the Thread City. In 1854 the Willimantic Linen Company started manufacturing high quality three and six cord cotton thread. This was around the same time as the domestic sewing machine was gaining popularity.

The Willimantic Linen Company imported a special raw cotton from the Indian Ocean Islands, known for its natural lubricants and tensile strength -- it didn't snap or become knotted in the sewing machine.

The Willimantic cotton mills were fitted with hundreds of humidifiers to ingeniously recreate the damp atmospheric cotton spinning conditions found in the valleys and dales of Yorkshire and Lancashire. The drier New England air had not been condusive to the efficient spinning of cotton thread. But now America no longer had to import cotton thread from England -- a trade then dominated by Britain's Coats Cotton Company. The Singer Sewing Machine and Willimantic cotton thread made the perfect partnership.

Thread City boomed. Within two generations, Willimantic grew from a village into a thriving industrial borough. In 1893 Willimantic, a name derived from the Pequot Indian term for "land of the swift running waters," gained city status. And thanks to its central location, Thread City also became the hub of New England's nineteenth century railroad network.