February 1, 2006
    Hopedale History
    No. 53
    The End is Near


    Giancarlo BonTempo sent a link to a site that some of you may find interesting. It’s to an 1890
    Massachusetts gazetteer. There’s a huge amount of information on it. Click here to go to it.

    A few months ago, I mentioned that Paul Curran had offered the cupola on his lawn back to Hopedale.
    It was originally on the carriage house of the Eben Draper Bancroft house on Adin Street. There
    seems to be some interest in doing this. A possible site for it is the triangle of land where Adin Street
    meets Route 16.

                                                                   
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    The End Is Near. That’s pretty much the story from the Milford News on August 25, 1978, when three
    different stories about the closing of the Draper plant in Hopedale covered most of the front page.
    Other front page stories that day include “Voting On New Pope Begins Tomorrow,” and “Hijackers
    Want Sirhan, Hess Released.” Here’s Virginia Cyr’s Draper article.



                                            Textile Machinery Firm To Close After 137 Years

                                            It’s All Over For Hopedale Draper Plant

                                                600 Workers To Lose Jobs in 10-15 Months

                                                                      By Virginia R. Cyr

    HOPEDALE – The residents of this “mill town” awoke this morning to the news that the Rockwell-
    Draper Division plant will cease operations within the next 10 to 15 months. The impact on the town,
    the area and the region, particularly for those who will be among the ranks of the unemployed is
    tremendous, according to selectmen, who held a news conference last night in Town Hall. The firm
    presently employs 600, and at one time had 3,000 workers.

           Representatives of Senator Edward Brooke and Senator Edward Kennedy met in Worcester
    yesterday with officials of Rockwell, as did a representative of Congressman Joseph Early. Howard
    Smith of the Office of Manpower Affairs was contacted regarding the situation and all federal and state
    officials have advised Hopedale officials and Rockwell officials that everything possible will be done to
    east the impact of the closing of the plant.

           Rockwell obtained the local loom manufacturing facility and associated land and holdings from
    Draper Corporation in the late 1960s. Founded by the Draper families, the factory and business, were
    benefactors of the residents. If one worked in Draper’s, then one was assured of a home at a
    minimum charge for rent and with maintenance provided by the firm. The scene began to change in
    1955 when Draper Corporation sold the homes occupied by its workers. This move was followed by a
    large number of layoffs and the subsequent purchase of the business by Rockwell interests. A steady
    change in the way of life of townspeople has steadily been evidenced since that time. The
    employment statistics at the plant found more than 3,000 employees listed at one point, with three
    shifts and workers brought here by bus from as far away as New Bedford.

                                                                                Reasons

           Selectmen met with Rockwell officials yesterday and heard the news release to the future closing
    of the plant. The news conference was scheduled for 7 p.m. yesterday by the board which issued a
    prepared statement on the matter. John Hayes, chairman of the Board of Selectmen stated that
    Rockwell had experienced a declining business where loom orders were concerned. In 1974, the firm
    had orders for over 10,000 looms. In 1978, this figure dropped to 1,000 looms and for the firms fiscal
    1979, the orders are lower than 1,000.

           The local plant has been engaged recently in making parts to maintain and keep looms it
    previously manufactured in running condition. The works will be consolidated in Spartanburg,
    eliminating transportation costs between Hopedale and Spartanburg. Hayes also cited the fact that
    OSHA requirements and federal and state noise pollution standards in some areas make it
    impossible to use (and subsequently sell) the fly shuttle loom which Draper’s is noted for. Hayes
    stated in short, “They (Rockwell) cannot support the facility here.” Hayes further stated that the board
    had received no indication of the firm’s plans for phasing out the local plant.

           Hayes stated that the reason for calling last night’s news conference was two-fold. First, the
    company and affected union personnel held a meeting about the closing yesterday afternoon. Hayes
    stated, “Word of the impending closing would be out before the press releases and this board felt
    responsible to the townspeople to let them know that federal officials had been contacted for future
    assistance.”

           The second reason cited by Hayes for calling the conference was to advise the people of the town
    that the board was given the courtesy of being advised by Rockwell officials of the upcoming closing.

           Hayes stated that from time to time meetings had been held between Rockwell officials and town
    officials to keep the local group apprised of the firm’s status. Hayes noted that the board held a
    meeting with Thomas Hopkins about a month ago and had discussed at that time the sewer
    situation, the best use of the land owned by Rockwell and placed on the market for sale over the past
    year. Hayes stated that the board received no indication at that time of the closing of the plant,
    although Hopkins did not paint a pretty picture of conditions at that time.

           Selectman Barrows stated that the board had asked if there were any possibility that the existing
    plant here could be used by another division of Rockwell, but from all indications such a move would
    not be feasible.

           Hopkins, according to selectmen, has indicated that Sam Brown will be assigned to work with the
    local Board of Selectmen, Industrial Development Commission and others concerned with locating
    new industry here. Brown worked with the local officials for about three years, while an official at the
    local plant on various matters and the board has often stated that it has been privileged to have
    established good rapport with Brown.

           Hayes stated that the IDC is the key to attracting business to Hopedale and that he would like to
    see other boards, such as the Planning Board become involved in reviewing and suggesting what is
    the best method to improve the industrial structure of the town.

           The firm still owns an estimated 800 to 1,000 acres of land in this town which is on the market. In
    addition, it owns land in Mendon, Milford and Upton. Hayes stressed the fact that although the impact
    on the community is “not good,” the firm holds a large piece of real estate here with the plant which is
    located in the area bordered by Hopedale, Freedom, and Hope Streets, as well as the West Foundry,
    located on Fitzgerald Drive.

           Hayes further stated that although the impact of the closing of the plant will be greatly felt,
    personnel has been reduced at various stages bringing it down to the estimated 600 workers
    presently employed. Hayes stated that it is easier to absorb 600 workers into the work market than it
    would be to absorb the 3,000 who were employed here at one time. Another area which would be
    affected is future employment which would no longer exist with the closing of the plant. Because of
    this, the board’s concern is primarily with long range matters, Hayes stated, “we cannot enjoy the
    luxury of keeping a big building like that empty.” Hayes was reluctant to say anything about the effect of
    the closing on the real estate tax, noting that Rockwell is a big business and it will still own the plant
    and facilities even though it is closed. Tax matters of this nature are the business of the board of
    Assessors. Hayes, in answer to a question, stated that the board had not been contacted, nor had it
    contacted union officials at the local plant relative to the planned closing announcement. Milford Daily
    News, August 25, 1978

    The Hopedale plant of Draper Division, Rockwell International, was closed two years later, August
    1980.

                               
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