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New Meets Old in a Massachusetts Textile Mill Turned Lofts

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Here now, Past Lives, in which Curbed contributor Chris Berger explores what some of the country's most interesting residential buildings used to be before they became livable homes. Care to suggest a building with a fascinating past life? Do drop us a line.

Historical elements don’t have to be trashed during renovations to meet modern tastes. Take the Washington Mills Lofts Building No. 1 in Lawrence, Mass. Its rehabilitation into lofts merged much of the former industrial site’s original materials with fresh features. The resulting 155 units are contemporary while offering visual reminders of the building’s past.

Photos: DBVW Architects and Glenn Turner

? The tone is set at the main entrance, where DBVW Architects redesigned a bleak basement into a sleek lobby. The 4-feet thick stone and brick foundation was exposed and cohabitates with cutting-edge slate, wood, steel, and glass components.

? In the residences, the wood posts and beams support the 14-feet-tall pine ceilings. Along the red-brick walls, the 9-feet-tall replacement windows resemble their predecessors. Added to the mix are contemporary lighting, duct work, and sound dampening floors.

? The interplay between old and new continues throughout the 250,000-square-feet building. Brick foundation piers rest next to treadmills in the fitness center, and splashy walls accompany more posts and beams in the corridors. On top of the six-story building, the restored roof monitor adjoins the new sundeck.

? In addition to its site-sensitive design, Washington Mills Lofts has been lauded for its impact on the local economy. When the Architectural Heritage Foundation Inc. and Banc of America Community Development Corporation bought the building in 2005, Lawrence was amid a half-century slump initiated by the departure of cloth companies after World War II.

? Long known as a place where drivers locked their doors upon entering, the city was in dire need of a boost. By embracing its history, Lawrence, about 30 miles northwest of Boston, appears on the path toward revitalization. Since the $43 million lofts conversion was completed in 2007, other former industrial buildings in the city have been revived—and more are in the works.

? Rents at Washington Mills Lofts Building No. 1 range from $925 per month for studios to $1,620 for two bedrooms and two baths.

· Washington Mills Lofts [official site]
· Washington Mills [DBVW]
· Washington Mills Building No. 1 [AHF]
· All Past Lives [Curbed National]