Founded in 1975, the members of the Attleboro Area Industrial Museum have worked to preserve and promote the city's industrial history. The museum is located in the historic Attleboro Refining Company building, which was built by brothers George and Harold Baker at the very end of the nineteenth century. Their company specialized in refining gold, silver and copper byproducts. Tools, machinery, photographs and other items related to the city's industrial past are on display for visitors to the museum. It also offers various educational and cultural programs for the community to enjoy.
The Greater Attleboro area has a substantial
industrial-manufacturing history. There is an entire walking tour devoted to
businesses/buildings that were connected to jewelry manufacturing in downtown
Attleboro (a link to the map is included below). In 1899, brothers Harold D.
Baker and George W. Baker decided to start a refinery in the city. They opened the Attleboro Refining Company in
the building at 42 Union Street and quickly established themselves as a vital
part of downtown Attleboro.
Their business specialized in the
refining of gold, silver, and copper byproducts. It used a stripping process to
refine the minerals, which was the conventional method at the time. Over the
years, new methods for refining various elements were established. By 1907,
they were experimenting with electrochemical equipment to find a more efficient
way of refining gold, silver, and copper that would also incur lower costs.
They became the first business in New England to improve the “electrolytic”
process and use it in their refinery. The different processes for refining
elements in order to make jewelry and other products are part of the story told
in the museum.
In 1968, the Handy & Harman
Refining Group, Inc., purchased the Attleboro Refining Company. They continued to use the same building for
about four years. Unfortunately, the building was already in a late stage of
disrepair. The Handy & Harman Refining Group eventually moved their
operations to a newer building in another part of Attleboro, about three miles
away. They gave the old building to the Attleboro Chamber of Commerce in 1976.
A year earlier (1975), the
Attleboro Area Industrial Museum had been incorporated as part of the city’s
bicentennial. However, the museum was
just a concept and did not have a home. The city had been in discussions for
several years about establishing a museum to tell the story of the Attleboro’s
great industrial history. Finally, once
the building had been deeded to the Chamber of Commerce, they knew immediately
how it would be used. It underwent several years of repair and renovations
before it was opened to the public for tours and research purposes.
During the summer and fall
months, from June to December, the museum is open extended hours. On the last
Thursday of each month, the museum remains open until 8PM. There are also various educational and
cultural programs held throughout the community and at the museum for school
groups, particularly third graders. The Attleboro Industrial Museum is also a
stop on the Downtown Attleboro Jewelry Manufacturing District Walking Tour.