On November 11th, I surveyed Clarkesville Mill located in Clarkesville, GA. The mill, built between 1950 and 1951, used rayon to produce fabric for curtains. The mill closed in 2001 and has since been converted into a mixed-use building called the Old Clarkesville Mill, housing a number of commercial ventures.
When Clarkesville mill was first constructed, it looked entirely unlike mills built a half century before. For example, compare the above picture of the original unaltered Clarkesville Mill, with a photograph of Sachem Mills in Winder, GA (Pictured Below). The mill in Winder, built in the late 1890s-early 1900s, looks like a typical Georgia cotton mill. Sachem Mills is multi storied, has detached warehouses, a detached weave shed, a boiler house denoted by its tall smokestack, direct railroad frontage, and so on. Clarkesville Mill when it was first constructed had few of these characteristic.
The most startling difference between Clarkesville Mill and earlier mills is that Clarkesville Mill is one story. Although there were one story mills built prior to WWII, one story mill construction was the proscribed method of mill construction following WWII. One chief reason was the ease of alteration. Clarkesville Mill currently has a number of additions added on to the original structure, which clearly illustrate this point. Clarkesville Mill is built with steel support columns and steel roof beams, as well as non load-bearing concrete walls. The concrete block walls could be removed as needed to allow for greater uninterrupted spaces. The expansion process is understandably more complex with a multi storied mill.
A single story mill could also reduce cost. When Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills, located in Atlanta and constructed like a typical multi story mill with a sprawling complex, was celebrating its 100th anniversary in 1968, Textile Industries carried a brief history of the mill. The magazine related that “one of Fulton’s young industrial engineers” was heard telling a visitor: “Just imagine what you could do with this if it was all on one level.”1 The magazine also reported that “Management readily admits that the physical layout of the plant raises materials handling costs and causes more than a few production headaches.”2 Although multi storied mills which stretch on for hundreds of feet may be impressive, this may also be that mills biggest weakness. Additionally, it is not just the external physical appearances that differ between older and newer textile mills. One figure that illustrates the difference between newer and older mill is that in the mid 1960s, to make an older mill suitable for new machinery, it could cost as much as 80 to 85 percent the cost of a brand new building.3 This also helps explain why mills chose to add additions with newer construction, as they allowed for greater future flexibility.
I would like to thank Mr. Otter for allowing me to survey the building, as well as Gail and Ms. Wineland for providing me with a tour, photos, and information about the site.
I would also like to thank Mr. D’entremont who used to work at Clarkesville Mill, and offered over an hour of his time explaining the production process at the mill.
1“Part 2: Fulton’s Management and Marketing Concepts Today” from “100th Anniversary: Fulton Cotton Mills.” Textile Industries, Vol. 38, No. 12. (December 1968), 67.
3Simpson, William Hays. Some Aspects of America’s Textile Industry, With Special Reference to Cotton. Columbia, SC: Division of General Studies, University of South Carolina, 1966, 63
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.