Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Manchester Millyard ... the Biggest Permanent Lego Installation in the World!

The basement of 200 Bedford Street in Manchester, New Hampshire houses the Millyard Museum operated by the Manchester Historic Association.  If you are a local history buff there is another sight in the same building you don't want to miss.  The SEE Science Center is located on the fourth floor, a family space for exploring science and engineering.  Inside the SEE is the world's largest permanent Lego installation representing a huge version of Manchester's Amoskeag Millyard.  This Lego project was made out of over three million Lego bricks by a force of volunteers over several years, 2004 to 2006.  All the bricks are regular Legos that are available to anyone, none were specially made for the project.

Workers leaving the Amoskeag main gate

The Lego Millyard Project portrays the year 1900, complete with buildings, bridges and canals that no longer exist.  The mini Manchester also has over 8,000 mini figures, all in appropriate costume representing millworkers, towns people, construction crews, pedestrians and other characters. If you look carefully you will see many little stories being played out in the scene.  I found robbers breaking into a bank, a politician paying off two cops in an alleyway, a mill worker with a broom chasing a rat in the weaving room, and a barbershop quartet.  If you go to visit, tell me what other little jokes and stories you see in the Lego Millyard.

Manchester City Hall

I was told that if all the Lego bricks in this project were lined up, they would reach from Manchester to Boston and all the way back!  That is a distance of about 55 miles each way.

This historic bridge must have taken a lot of engineering to replicate in Lego bricks!
At its peak the Amoskeag Millyard in Manchester employed over 17,000 people and was the largest millyard in the world.  The millyard started in 1826 with the Bell Mill producing textiles, and was expanded with more manufacturing, boarding houses, stores and canals.  The Merrimack River supplied the power for everything, as trains brought in the raw cotton and wool and left with finished cloth and textiles.  The water power ran the looms, foundries and machine shops. On Christmas Eve 1935 the Amoskeag Manufacturing company declared bankruptcy and closed its doors, plunging the city into the darkest days of the depression.

Rows of boarding houses behind the manufacturing mills

Today the millyard is used by local businesses, universities, radio and television stations, restaurants, offices and even luxury condominiums and apartments. One of the entrepreneurs who based his business here was Dean Kamen.  The SEE museum was founded by Kamen, and his additional connections with the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) organization, the Lego company and with hundreds of volunteers led to the creation of the Lego Millyard Project.  You may know Dean Kamen as the inventor of the Segway, and the creator of many medical devices and water purification units that have changed the lives of people around the world.

These coalyards, smokestacks and train station are no longer standing in Manchester. 

Pine Island Park is no longer an amusement park on the trolley line,
but it exists today as city parkland on the banks of the Merrimack River.
Tiny Lego millworkers and their families enjoy the parks
and open air markets in this miniature version of Manchester. 

This mill has open sides so you can see the millworkers at work in the weaving and spinning rooms

If you look closely you might see a familiar scene replicated here in Lego bricks.
This famous photo shows the largest American Flag ever made
at the Amoskeag Mills in 1914

This book is available in the giftshop
of the SEE museum, and it describes the 
entire Lego Millyard Project with stories
and photographs. 

The Lego Millyard Project

A video tour of the Lego Millyard Project


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Copyright (c) 2014,  Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Oh wow! I can't wait to visit and see that especially since I had ancestors that worked in the mills

  2. Heather - I love this! I will definitely go see this next time when I am in New England.

  3. I used to work at the Jefferson Mills, the one with the clock tower, in the late 1990s. It was an office on the second floor.