The early history of Needham centered around the establishment of mills. Textile and saw mills were opened along the Charles River throughout the 18th century. These in turn attracted knitters from the English Midlands who migrated to Needham to establish their businesses in the new world. The largest of these was the William Carter Co. founded in 1857 and whose line of childen's clothing became a household brand world-wide.
Our own historic mill building dates back to the late 19th century and was built by J.B. Thorpe to house his fabric manufacturing company. It was sold to William Gorse in the early 20th century. Gorse continued to manufacture knitted goods, most notably corsets, as the William Gorse Company. In the mid 1970s the company closed and the building stood vacant. In 1982 the Apahouser Lock Co., which designed and produced high tech security systems purchased the building. This company and its successors operated until December of 2006 at which time the building became vacant except for Steven Branfman and his studio, The Potters Shop & School, who had been tenants in the building since 1989. Building owner Lewis Cohen approached Steven and asked him if he had any ideas about how the building could be used. It was then that the vision of an artist-owned studio complex began to take root.
Lewis and Steven formed a partnership and three years later, after a complete building renovation and interior redesign, Gorse Mill Studios had its grand opening. It is now home to over 50 artists occupying 33 work-only studio condominiums and a central gallery. We are painters, jewelers, photographers, stained glass artists, graphic designers, children’s book illustrators, mosaic artists, a storyteller, sculptors, glassblowers, encaustic artists and potters. Having preserved the last surviving mill building in Needham, we are a group of people who, through our common interests and like-mindedness, have formed a creative community for the benefit of each other, the neighborhood and the town. In recognition of their combined vision and accomplishment, in 2009, the Needham Historical Commission awarded Lewis and Steven The Bosworth Award for Historic Preservation. The Gorse Mill Studios building continues to be a place where imagination, creativity and craft bring people together in support of the arts.