Mill towers, besides containing the stairways, also serve other purposes, as for cloak rooms for the help. They often contain a part of the fire protective apparatus, carrying standpipes with hydrants at each floor. For this use they are easily available, and furnish a line of retreat in case a fire spreads to an extent beyond the ability of the apparatus to cope with it. These towers also furnish an excellent foundation for the elevated tank necessary for the supply of water for the fire apparatus in places unprovided with an elevated reservoir.

In view of the terrible and deplorable accidents which have occurred by reason of lack of proper stairway facilities at panics caused in time of fire, I would repeat the words of the late Amos D. Lockwood, the most eminent mill engineer which this country has yet produced, when he said to the New England Cotton Manufacturers' Association, "You have no moral right to build a mill employing a large number of help, with only one tower containing the stairways for exit."

The statute laws of several of the States require fire escapes; but it is a matter of fact that they are rarely used, because people are not often cool enough to avail themselves of that opportunity of escape. I know of one instance where a number of girls jumped out of a fourth story window, because they did not think of the stairways, and did not dare to use the fire escape. In that instance, none of the group referred to tried to go down the stairs, which did furnish a perfectly safe means of exit to a number of others.

Most of the fire escapes are put up so as to conform to the letter of the law; and in such manner that no one but a sailor or an acrobat would be likely to trust himself to them. In crowded city buildings, and in other places where the ordinary means of escape are not in duplicate, it is essential that fire escapes should be provided; but it is a great deal better to make a mill building so that they shall not be necessary as a matter of fact, even if they are put up to conform to the requirements of statute law.

Rear Towers

In addition to stairways, towers are placed at the rear of the mill, for the purpose of accommodating the elevators and sanitary arrangements. It is not desirable that elevators should be boxed or surrounded with anything that would result in the construction of a flue; but it is preferable that they pass directly through the floors, with the openings protected by automatic hatchways which close whenever the elevator car is absent. In the washroom, etc., in these towers, it is desirable to protect the wood floors by means of a thin layer of asphalt.

Basement Floors

There are difficulties connected with the floors on or near the ground, by reason of the dry rot incident to such places. Dry rot consists in the development of fungus growth from spores existing in the wood, and waiting only the proper conditions for their germination. The best condition for this germination is the exposure to a slight degree of warmth and dampness. There have been many methods of applying antiseptic processes for the preservation of wood; but, irrespective of their varying degrees of merit, they have not come into general use on account of their cost, odor, and solubility in water.

It is necessary that wood should be freely exposed to circulation of air, in order to preserve it under the ordinary conditions met with in buildings. Whenever wood is sealed up in any way by paint or varnish, unless absolutely seasoned, and in a condition not found in heavy merchantable timber, dry rot is almost sure to ensue. Whitewash is better.

There has recently been an instance of a very large building in New York proving unsafe by reason of the dry rot generated in timbers which have been completely sealed up by application of plaster of Paris outside of the wire lath and plaster originally adopted as a protection against fire. Wire lath and plaster is one of the best methods of protecting timber against fire; and, if the outside is not sealed by a plaster of stucco or some other impermeable substance, the mortar will afford sufficient facilities for ventilation to prevent the deposition of moisture, which will in turn generate dry rot.

Where beams pass into walls, ventilation should be assured by placing a board each side of the beam while the walls are being built up, and afterward withdrawing it. In the form of hollow walls referred to, it is a common practice to run the end of the beam into the flue thus formed, in order to secure ventilation.

I am well acquainted with a large mill property, one building of which was erected a short time before the failure of the corporation, which resulted in the whole plant remaining idle several years. After the lapse of about five years this establishment was again put into operation; but before the new mill could be safely filled with machinery, it was necessary to remove all the beams which entered walls and to substitute for them new ones, because the ends were so thoroughly rotted that it would have been dangerous to impose any further loads upon the floors. When floors are within a few feet of the ground, unless the site be remarkably dry, it is essential to provide for a circulation of air, which can be done very feasibly in a textile mill by laying drain pipe through the upper part of the underpinning, forming a number of holes leading into this space, and then making a flue from this space to the picker room or any other place requiring a large amount of air. The fans of the picker room, drawing their supply from underneath the building, produce a circulation of air which keeps the timber in good condition.

It is supposed by some that there is a difference in the quality of timber according to the season in which it is felled, preference being given to winter timber, on account of the greater amount of potash and phosphoric acid which it is said to contain at that time. In some parts of Europe it is a custom to specify that the lumber should have been made from rafted timber, on account of the action of the water in killing certain species of germs. Whatever may be the merits of either of these two theories, the commercial lumber of the northern part of this country is generally felled in winter and afterward rafted.