The Growth of Lensdale


By 1833, American Optical was manufacturing its own lenses rather than relying on imported lenses of highly variable quality. The Mechanics Mill property was purchased to house the first lens operation. But George W. Wells realized even then that the lens making business would far surpass anyone’s expectations. A new site with additional water power had to be found. Failing to convince his partners of that probability, Wells personally purchased land and water privileges at a site about a third of a mile down the read from the Main Plant. He held it for one year before his associates saw his wisdom. In 1888, the first Lensdale (later expanded becoming the Case Plant on East Main St.) was built.

But the lens business continued to expand rapidly. In 1909, work began on a new lens plant. As Wells himself notes: “The entirely of reinforced concrete, not a particle of wood being employed in the construction, and the window sash are of steel glazed with double lights of glass to each opening. “One of the leading causes for the erection of this building across the river was to get rid of the dust from the highway and the locomotive on the railroad, as dust is the greatest enemy of lens manufacturing.

“The grounds around this factory are tastily laid out and well sodded. In the rear of the factory is a large tract of woodland which presents the appearance of a wooded park.”

The Lens Plant was revolutionary for its time and for decades to come was cited as an example for architects to follow. It was built entirely by AO engineers under the direction of George W.’s son, Albert B. Wells.

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