Deep River's Lace Factory
Andrea Isaacs didn't see lace when she first saw the lace factory. She saw something else when she looked at the huge concrete factory floor.
"I looked at it and knew it was the perfect spot for catering," she said.
Isaacs, in fact, is the impresario of the lace factory's latest incarnation as an upscale catering facility. Isaacs also owns Cloud Nine Catering and Deli in Old Saybrook.
The building, well over 100 years old, began its life, according to Isaacs, not as a factory but instead as a shipyard and then a docking facility for offloading ivory sent to the area for use in making piano keyboards.
During its days as a factory, the business used huge, 16-ton lace machines known as Leavers weaving machines that stood nine feet six inches tall. Each machine had 4,600 bobbins for weaving lace.
At the time the factory was closed in l990, Peter DeCarli told a reporter that the problem was not that of a decreasing demand for lace, but rather of a decreasing number of skilled operatives who knew how to run the huge machines. Those who did have the skills were aging and not being replaced by younger workers. The machines were sent to Calais, France, where, at the time, there were still sufficient workers and apprentices to keep them in operation.
Leona DeCarli remembers the days when the mill was in full operation (see her Person of the Week profile on page 2). She can still hear the whirr of the lace machines in her mind.
"I miss listening to the machines going back and forth," she says. "I just enjoyed working there, but now everybody's gone."
DeCarli said she sees the daughter of one of the women who worked with her at the mill who now works at Adam's supermarket.
"We talk about it when I see her," she said.
DeCarli also recalls when the factory office was used as a dressing room for actors in an episode of a public television production of Eugene O'Neill's play Mourning Becomes Electra. Scenes were being shot at the river landing just across from the factory.
"It was exciting," she said.
DeCarli still has a script from the production, but she never saw it on television.
DeCarli hasn't visited the lace factory recently, but it still occupies a special place in her memory.
"Oh, I still think about it, how it used to be," she said. "I don't know Andrea, but say hello to her for me."