The ability for textile mills to maximize and use all available floor space was a key concern as textile mills expanded following World War II. Improved technology allowed for the construction of large open areas.
Photograph 1: Second floor interior, Building #5(1955 Addition) at Puritan Cordage Mills, Clarke County, Georgia, Photograph taken 6/25/1995 on file at Georgia Historic Preservation Division
Photograph 2: Exterior,Building #5 (1955 Addition) at Puritan Cordage Mills, Clarke County, Georgia, Photograph taken 6/25/1995 on file at Georgia Historic Preservation Division
Photograph 3: Interior, Building #4 (1922 Addition) at Puritan Cordage Mills, Clarke County, Georgia, Photograph taken 6/25/1995 on file at Georgia Historic Preservation Division
Photograph 4: Exterior, Building #4 (1922 Addition) at Puritan Cordage Mills, Clarke County, Georgia, Photograph taken 6/25/1995 on file at Georgia Historic Preservation Division
Even though the 1955 addition (Photographs 1 and 2 seen above) at Puritan Cordage Mills near Athens, GA is two stories with an arched roof, the possibilities provided by one story open space textile mills were immense. The absence of supporting columns allowed for greater internal flexibility. An industry trade journal in 1948 believed that the increasing size of textile machinery would make columns a great hindrance and that in any progressive mill it would be “…almost impossible to predict in advance what column space will fit the machinery of the future.”1 Portions of Puritan Cordage Mills constructed in the early 1920s (Photographs 3 and 4 above) relied on long rows of wooden columns as part of a post and beam roof system. When compared to the completely open spaces of the 1955 addition, the obstruction caused by long rows of internal supports is clearly displayed. In the late 1940s the textile industry generally believed that there was little to impede its growth and that future growth and modernization needed open space construction. This does not mean that all mill additions built after World War II utilized construction techniques allowing for large unbroken space and the industry would continue to find innovative ways to create open spaces, some of which were quite radical.
Jefferson Mills located in Jackson County, Georgia after having already added typical additions on a cotton mill built in 1899, decided to construct a completely new building (Seen below). This building, completed in 1966, utilized an exterior system of tension cables, like those on a suspension bridge, to hold the weight of the roof and negate the use of interior columns. Even though architecturally very different from the 1955 addition at Puritan Cordage Mills, it is all part of the attempt to open up work space and increase the flexibility and adaptability of Georgia’s textile mills.
Image from John Linley’s The Georgia Catalog: Historic American Buildings Survey: A Guide to the Architecture of the State, 233.
In my next posting I will have an update from an upcoming site visit to Martha Mills in Thomaston, Ga.
1Ewell, David. “One-Story Mill Trend Backed By Sound Reasons” Textile World Vol. 98 No. 11, 105.
Steven Eubanks is a graduate student at West Georgia University and recipient of the 2010 Elizabeth Lyon Fellowship. The Elizabeth Lyon Fellowship provides financial assistance for projects that acquaint undergraduate and graduate students, and young professionals with preservation programs and practices.