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.


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