Thursday, January 27, 2011

2010 Elizabeth Lyon Fellowship Project Update

Trion’s Mount Vernon Mills

On Monday, January the 17th I visited Mount Vernon Mills in Trion, GA. I was originally scheduled to visit the mill during the week of Georgia’s inclement weather, and thus this update is late in coming. I would first like to thank Ms. Jennifer Cox who was very helpful in scheduling the first visit, and then rescheduling so quickly following the snow and ice. I also sincerely appreciated Mr. Don Henderson’s willingness to spend the entire day showing me around the mill, and maybe more importantly answering my questions. His insight into the textile industry will also be invaluable to this project. Since I acquired so much interesting information about the mill, I will spend less time talking about the architectural qualities of the mill additions and focus on what I learned overall.


Trion’s mill was first built in 1845. The mill was one of the first in the state of Georgia, and was assuredly the first textile mill built in Northwest Georgia. The mill survived William T. Sherman in 1864, but like many mills suffered a devastating fire in 1875. The mill was quickly rebuilt and this 1875 mill houses the core production processes today, containing carding, spinning, warping, some weaving, as well as many other smaller processes.(See Photograph Below) The mill made a variety of products, prior to getting into the denim business in the 1970s. Denim today is the mill’s major product, and the mill takes raw cotton and converts it into massive rolls of denim which are shipped off to apparel manufacturers to be cut into blue jeans or other denim based products. If you own a pair of Wrangler jeans or a Carhart product, there is a good possibility it came from Trion’s mill.

Above: Mount Vernon Mills, Trion, GA. Photographer facing northwest. Most of the southern facade of the mill is obstructed by large three story mill additions, added prior to 1900. These early additions are in turn covered by a number of exterior buildings, such as air cleaning units, power units, and other auxiliary structures built after WWII. Many of the windows have been bricked in, but the façade is still visible./ Photograph in possession of author taken 1/17/10

Since the mill has been active for such a long period of time there are additions that date to the mid 1990s, including an enormous distribution warehouse. This warehouse shows how much even cotton mills (those that remain) are changing today. This newer warehouse, which was built on the northeastern corner of the mill, is eighty feet tall and several hundred feet long. Once rolled denim is finished and moved by conveyor to this distribution warehouse, no person physically has to touch the denim until a forklift driver puts it in the shipping container. In other words, eighty foot tall robots and conveyors do all the appropriate moving. These robots are used because they are easier on the rolled denim and cause fewer defects. These automated systems are just one of the many modern aspects of Trion’s Mount Vernon Mills, and examples of how this successful mill continues to remain competitive and modernized. Modernization is a dominate theme in the post WWII period. Those mills that did not spend the capital dollars in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s were almost assuredly doomed to failure. There was a rapid advancement in technology between the 1960s and 1980s, and thus it was very difficult for Georgia’s mills to spend the required money to install new and faster equipment.

The mill does have a very nice addition added on the northern face of the 1870s mill. The addition was added in stages in the 1960s and 1970s.(See Photograph Below) The addition now serves as additional weave space and houses slashing and some of the finishing operations. Although the addition is two stories, it has the standard construction technique seen in most post WWII mill additions. The mill has a concrete foundation in addition to steel columns and roof supports. The addition has non-load bearing concrete block walls with an exterior brick veneer. The addition was built in divided sections, and these subdivided sections now house separate processes. This is just one major addition, as there are so many others in this mill

Above: Mount Vernon Mills, Trion, GA. Photographer facing west, At the far left of the photograph, the northern facade of the original mill is visible. The addition connects the main mill with a white dye house on the right, which was built in the 1990s. Completed denim leaves this addition via conveyor belt, which can be seen at right of picture, and takes it to the distribution center./ Photograph in possession of author taken 1/17/10

Trion’s mill is the only working mill I have surveyed so far during this project. Seeing the process in action was well worth the visit, but more importantly seeing the modern machinery and how efficient it was, provided a clear indication of the advantages of modern technology, and how those mills that did not modernize would surely be left behind.

If you are interested in getting more information on Trion’s mill, visit the websites below:

CNN did a piece covering Trion’s mill.

The company website has some very interesting information, including a plant tour, and a pretty detailed timeline.

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.

Friday, January 21, 2011

January 2011 Member Spotlight: Chris Lambert

In this month’s Member Spotlight, we are thrilled to focus on Georgia Trust Trustee and avid preservationist, Chris Lambert of Madison, Georgia.

Chris has been involved in the Georgia Trust since soon after the Trust’s creation when she and her husband Roy generously hosted a dinner for the Trust at their home. The couple went on to become loyal members with Roy serving on the Board of Trustees from 1981 to 1988 and as President in1984 and 1985. Chris has been a Georgia Trust Trustee since 2010.

In addition to her work on the Trust’s board, she is also heavily involved in Madison where she serves on various committees with the Madison Morgan Cultural Center and Chamber of Commerce. She is also a board member of Madison Green Space Commission, The Morgan County Foundation for Excellence in Public Education and The Morgan Fund Advisory Board for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

Chris became interested in historic preservation after witnessing the loss of significant resources in Madison. She believes that it, "is important to take note of your surroundings and the things that bring you joy. Don’t take for granted that they will always be there. Be willing to support efforts to preserve irreplaceable treasures in your environment."

The Georgia Trust is extremely grateful to have dedicated board members like Chris. We look forward to working with her in protecting and preservating Georgia's historic treasures.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

2010 Elizabeth Lyon Fellowship Project Update

Controlling the Air in Textile Mills

The ability to control the temperature and quality of air in a textile mill, had significant implications on textile mill architecture. Additionally, controlling interior air also provided increased production capabilities and human comfort for mill workers. Regulating the air within a textile mill, did not just mean solely controlling the temperature, it also meant assuring that the air inside the mill was cleaned. It is in the late 1940s and early 1950s that many textile mills began to install air coolers and washers. In some cases mills were not conditioned entirely at one time, but were conditioned over time, with many mills remaining unconditioned even until the late 1960s. There was not one standard way to condition mills, although there was a system that became common. This involved the installation of windowless towers which housed the air cooling and air washing systems. Although adding air conditioning systems did not increase factory space, they do significantly alter the façade of a textile mill and were incredibly significant to the textile industry.

Two mills which have these air cooling and air washing towers added immediately on the original
facade are Dunson Mill in LaGrange, GA and Habersham Mills in Demorest GA. Dunson Mill, which was built in 1911, was not fully air conditioned until the early 1970s. (See Photograph of Conditioning Tower at Dunson Mill Below) In addition to adding cooling and washing towers, the windows at the mill were bricked in. The use of artificial lighting negated the need for windows in mills, and most mills found ways to fill or cover existing windows. On the front façade of Dunson Mill, there are six of these large cooling and conditioning towers which greatly alter the mill facade. Habersham Mills in Demorest, GA also had cleaning and cooling towers added.(See Photograph Habersham Mills Conditioning Tower Below) Habersham Mills production space was constructed in two main building campaigns, with the conditioning tower below added in the early 1960s to a major 1930s mill addition. At both Habersham Mills and Dusnon Mills, these conditioning towers were added to achieve the similar goals of cleaning and cooling the air inside of a cotton mill, even if the additions look very different.

Above: Photograph of Dunson Mill in LaGrange, GA. Photographer facing north, Photograph of air washing and cooling tower. Cooling tower is in left center of photograph, to right of the conditioning tower is the original mill façade with bricked in windows/ Photograph in possession of author taken 11/16/10

Above: Photograph of Habersham Mills in Demorest, GA. Photographer facing east, Photograph of red brick addition added to house air washing and cooling system. To the left of the red brick addition, is the main mill which has been covered with corrugated metal/ Photograph in possession of author taken 12/9/10

One note is that not all mills added cooling and conditioning towers directly on the mill
facade. Martha Mills in Thomaston, GA added air washers to the interior of the mill, but also had some conditioning equipment set off a great distance from the main mill, with no significant additions added directly on the exterior of existing mill buildings to housing air conditioning equipment. A number of mills kept parts of their coolant systems detached from the mill buildings, while still have some housed in additions added directly to the mill. In most cases though, mills tried to avoid using existing interior floor space for anything other than production equipment. Also, newer mills built with steel frame construction were able to utilize roof space to hold large coolant systems.

The ability to control air was extremely important for textile mills. When mills were built from
the ground up with air conditioning systems they were worthy of praise. A textile trade journal article title praised a mill in Cornelia, GA built in 1946-1947 as a “Modern Mill Building” which “Features Control of Air”.1 The air conditioning system could reportedly “change” the air fourteen times per hour.2 The ability to control and regulate the air made this mill unique, modern, and worthy of attention in the textile mill community, displaying how revolutionary and important air condition was in the years following World War II.

In my next blog posting I will discuss what may be my most exciting site visit yet, although
all the mills I have studied (In person or on paper) have been interesting and enlightening. On January 11th I am scheduled to tour Trion’s Mount Vernon Mill. Trion’s Mill is undoubtedly the oldest mill in Northwest Georgia, and may be the oldest operating mill in the state of Georgia. The mill produces denim fabric and is a testament to the versatility and durability of Georgia’s textile mill buildings and proof that there still is a textile industry in Georgia.

1 “Modern Mill Building: Features Control of Air” Textile World Vol. 97 No. 1, 121-121.

2 Ibid., 120.

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.