Above: Aerial view of Martha Mills complex from Google Earth/ View is aligned with north being the top of the picture
On Thursday November the 11th I surveyed Martha Mills in Thomaston, GA. I want to thank Matthew Molenkamp for showing me around and allowing me to document this amazing (and vast) site.
Above: Photographer facing west, Photograph of main mill’s east façade, Added during 1929 main mill expansion/ Photograph in possession of author, taken 11/11/10
Martha Mills was constructed in 1926 to make cotton tire cord for the B. F. Goodrich Company. In 1929 B. F. Goodrich officially bought the mill, which had been operated by the owners of Thomaston Mill and in that same year the mill grew in length, with the original three story mill receiving wings on the west side and east side . The mill continued to receive various additions prior to WWII on the north side of mill, which formed an L, with some of the L completed in the late 1960s. The L portion is no longer extant, but was three stories in height, like the main mill. These additions were easily integrated into the mill because raw product could enter on the west east side of the mill, pass through the appropriate processes and exit on west side. A series of covered walkways and breezeways allowed for the movement of products between the appropriate areas. When Martha Mills chose to expand in the late 1960s, they built a one story weave mill, and warehouse to the south. This addition is not directly connected to the main mill, but it does have a series of passageways, some of which could be sealed if needed. This addition is built with a steel frame, whereas the majority of Martha Mills has cast iron columns, with wood columns only receiving minimal use. The west portion of the addition was designated as a weave mill, which added loom capacity to the mill, and the east wing was designated as a warehouse, with both the weave mill and warehouse under one continuous roof. This addition may have somewhat altered the product flow, because on the east side of the warehouse, there was an all-steel building (no longer extant) built in the 1969, and housed a process which was made the product last longer. There was also a warehouse built in the 1970s just south of the all-steel building, which was used to store finished goods. Did all the products now leave the southeast corner of the mill, instead of on the west side, where a concrete loading dock was located? It is conceivable that some, and not all synthetic products had to be treated before the production process was complete, whereas cotton products required no such process. Martha Mills did start producing a variety of synthetic materials, as it attempted to remain competitive.
Although the weave mill and warehouse additions bring new questions to light, they do illustrate some key points about what was becoming standard in post WWII construction. Steel columns and steel framed buildings were the norm as steel offered greater strength and increased resistance to fire. The concrete block interior walls with brick veneer were also becoming common. Most additions, or new mills, were one story and windowless due to the increased potential to expand a one story mill and the ease of product flow. Mills could be windowless because of artificial lighting and the increased availability of air conditioning which increased human comfort and the production capability of the machines. These are just a few, of the many points about post WWII textile mill construction demonstrated by Martha Mills.
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.