Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2010 Elizabeth Lyon Fellowship Project Update

Dixie Mill

On Thursday, February 3, I surveyed Dixie Mills in LaGrange, GA . In addition to examining Dixie Mills, I was also able to investigate Kex and Unity Mills, two former Callaway Mills, operated by Milliken at the time of their closure. I will focus mostly on Dixie Mills in this update, because it does have a number of additions, and a decent amount of information exists on what the additions were for, as well as when they were built. Unity Mills had no significant post WWII additions, although the interior had been modernized, and Kex only had a couple of additions. I would like to thank John Knox who owns the three mills for letting me spend the time looking at the mills, as well as Mike Joyce, who took the time to show me around the complexes, even as the rain was turning to sleet.


Dixie Mills was built between 1895-1896, as the first major textile mill in LaGrange. The mill, when first constructed was built with a construction system designed by Charles A. M. Praray. The system allowed the outer wall to be built on a separate foundation, apart from the foundation of the interior structure. This made the outer walls non-load bearing and allowed for these walls to have large expanses of uninterrupted windows, allowing a great deal of light to pass into the mill. The mill no longer has these outer Praray designed walls, which had a very distinctive triangular look, but Douglasville, GA’s Western Georgia Cotton Mill, also designed by Praray, maintains this outer wall design, and even though the windows are covered the structure is still striking in appearance. Dixie Mill probably lost this outer wall during a major renovation in the 1940s.

Above: Photographer facing southeast, Photograph of Dixie Mill’s north façade, Mill façade and most of the 1940s additions are obstructed by air cleaning systems, company offices, and occupational health offices./ Photograph in possession of author, taken 2/3/11

Above: Photographer facing southwest, Photograph of Dixie Mill’s east face, The large addition on the front is an air cleaning system. Just behind that is the 1941 addition, which will built directly onto the main mill. The main mill is denoted by the bricked up windows to the left of the photograph./ Photograph in possession of author, taken 2/3/11

Dixie Mills has a series of additions on the front façade, which obstruct the original façade.(See Photographs of Dixie’s Front Façade and 1941 Addition Above) The additions along the front face were added in 1941 and 1945, and were simply meant to add additional floor space or if needed, house specific processes . The 1941 addition is two stories in height, mirroring the original mill and held carding.1 The only clear identifiable difference in the interior of the mill, is that instead of the massive wood beams, steel beams are used as roof supports. The same features apply to an addition added along the front face in 1945, except that they held intermediate processes between carding and spinning. Even though one story mills were already being built in Georgia in the 1930s, there is a transitional period during the decade of the 1940s, during which older textile mills continued to expand using multi story additions as the standard form of expanding. When Monroe Mills in Monroe, GA chose to expand in 1949, the addition they built looked very much like the original mill, except for interior steel supports.(See Photograph Below) The stylistic features of these mill additions could differ from the original mill on which they were added. For instance Swift Mill’s, in Columbus, weave shed (See Photograph Below) completed in 1945, takes on the International style, which allowed for broad window bays, very different from the original mill and its pre-war additions, which generally have the typical arched windows, but the addition is still multi storied. Although one story mills came into use, and steel was a worthwhile investment, the change from multi to single story additions did not occur overnight, and many mills continued to use multi story additions.

Above: Photographer facing southwest, Photograph of Monroe Mill’s 1949 addition. The addition was built to fill in space between the main mill and areas were weaving was done. The addition is multi storied, with window bays much like the original mill. The addition has been covered with an elevator shaft, toilet tower, and an air cleaning unit./ Photograph in possession of author, taken 1/18/11

Above: Photographer facing east, Photograph of Swift Mill’s weave shed added in 1945. This addition, built with a steel frame, is similar to many International Style buildings, and even though it is multi storied, it looks very different from the older portions of Swift Mill./ Photograph in possession of author, taken 1/27/11

These assorted 1940s addition were not the only additions added at Dixie Mills. The ever present air coolers and cleaners were added to the front façade of the mill. The slasher building on the rear south face of the mill was expanded at various points, and appears to have undergone a very recent addition as noted by exterior concrete block walls. This feature in textile mills is very uncommon, because in many cases textile mills would place a brick veneer over these non loading block walls. There was a proposed expansion of Dixie Mills in the late 1990s which would reportedly “double the capacity of the plant…”2 Another addition included a more modern loading dock on the western face. The look of the building was not the only thing changed. The mill converted to rayon in the late 1940s, but at some point switched back to cotton as its main product.3 Dixie Mills, like many textile mills in Georgia, grew throughout its history, as needed to expand or adapt to new opportunities in the market.

1 “Addition Is To Be Built On Dixie Mills Costing $25,000.” Lagrange Daily News, 1 September, 1941, 1. and “West Point Manufacturing Company: La Grange, GA” Insurance Map by Associated Factory Mutual Fire Insurance companies, 18 February, 1947, in Dixie Mill Vertical Fill, Troup County Archives, LaGrange, GA.

2”Dixie Mill Expansion to add capacity, jobs.” LaGrange Daily News, 11 October, 1998, 8.

3”Dixie is No Cotton Mill, Makes Nothing But Rayon.” LaGrange Daily News, 1 September, 1950, 1

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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