BIW and the Hyde Windlass Company

In the 1880s the Bath Iron Foundry, owned by General Thomas Hyde and located on Water Street in downtown Bath, was a well-established builder of deck machinery, such as windlasses, and other shipbuilding hardware, such as anchors. The business was reorganized as Bath Iron Works in 1884, and in 1888 acquired its first waterfront property, beginning an expansion into shipbuilding.

By 1896 both sides of the business – shipbuilding and machinery – were doing well and General Hyde decided to separate the machinery business, creating Hyde Windlass Company. Although now a separate company, Hyde Windlass remained under the same ownership as BIW, with the same senior leadership.  Hyde constructed a new plant a short distance south of the existing BIW shipyard, on the grounds of the former Morse shipyard.

BIW and Hyde both grew over the next several years. Throughout this era, Hyde supplied machinery, boilers, and other hardware to BIW, many of the other shipyards in Bath and to yards up and down the coast. As Bath-built sailing ships voyaged to the far corners of the world, Hyde’s products were a familiar sight in distant ports.

Like BIW, Hyde’s fortunes rose and fell with the shipbuilding business. Hyde survived the lean years of the 1920s, and by World War II saw significant expansion, with employment rising to 1,100 people. BIW re-purchased Hyde Windlass in October of 1961. Although the business and its 320 employees were a good fit with BIW, the 12 acres of waterfront property immediately adjacent to the shipyard must have been attractive as well. Hyde initially operated independently of BIW, and the new leadership invested in modernization of Hyde’s operations and attempted to diversify into new product lines.

Despite these efforts, and faced with the overall decline of U.S. shipbuilding, Hyde’s business remained challenging. In 1969, the company’s management closed down the operation entirely. Hyde’s name and product lines were sold to another company and survive today as Hyde Marine, while the facility was incorporated into BIW’s growing shipyard.

Over the years, former Hyde buildings took on various roles in the shipyard, and many vanished as the shipyard evolved. Several buildings were demolished or reduced in size when BIW’s Assembly Building was built and again when the roadway along the Assembly Building was constructed in 1998. More recently, construction of Blast & Paint #4 claimed Hyde’s World War II-era assembly building, long known to shipbuilders as “South Hyde”. Today the Carpenters Shop building is a survivor from the Hyde era, along with Hyde’s former main office building, across Washington Street on the Supervisor of Shipbuilding campus.