Monday, April 25, 2011

2010 Elizabeth Lyon Fellowship Project Update

Tallapoosa Cotton Mills

Throughout the course of this project I have been surprised by a number of my findings. In researching Tallapoosa Cotton Mills (still in operation and currently known as Venus Thread Mill) in Tallapoosa, GA I believed that the mill, built in 1907, had no significant additions, and therefore I did not initially conduct an in-depth survey of the mill. Upon having the chance to return and examine the mill on April 12th with Dr. Keith Hebert, Co-Director of the Center for Public History and Assistant Professor at the University of West Georgia, it became apparent to Dr. Hebert that the mill had been significantly altered. Upon further research it was clear that the original mill existed, but that it had been encased on two sides by a large L-shaped addition which although largely expanding the mill, did not change the overall shape of the mill.

Figure 1: Tallapoosa, ca. 1915. Tallapoosa Cotton Mills. Tallapoosa, Haralson County. Hrl026 Photo Courtesy of Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Division of Archives and History, Office of Secretary of State.

Tallapoosa Cotton Mill had many of the typical features of a turn-of-the-century cotton mill. (See Figure 1 Above) Upon initial examination, both in paper and with a windshield survey, it appeared that the mill had no significant additions, because aerial views or footprints of the mill, which did not indicate its scale, hid the size of the mill and its expansion. (See Figures 2 and 3 Below) The addition added in 1948, simply encased two sides of the original mill, and had an L-shape, and it took careful study to realize that the mill had indeed been expanded.

Figure 2: Sanborn Map. Tallapoosa Jan. 1930-Dec. 1939 update, Sheet 7 Accessed through Proquest, Digital Sanborn Maps 1867-1970.

Figure 3: October 11, 2010 Aerial View of Tallapoosa Cotton Mills Courtesy of Google Earth. Notice the similar footprints of Tallapoosa Cotton Mills both before and after its 1948 addition. Without knowing the correct scale, the mill appears largely unchanged. The addition surrounded the original mill, covering the north and west facades.

The addition at Tallapoosa Cotton Mills clearly fits into the transitional period of mill additions. The addition is multi-storied and built directly onto the original mill, and simply added space for additional spinning equipment, as the mill only spun fiber and never wove fabric. The windows on both the original 1907 mill and the 1948 mill are bricked in, which gives the mill a deceptively coherent look. Additionally a large air cleaning unit and a central tower were added on the area where the two additions meet, covering much of the original mill, and hiding the differences in the original mill and the addition.(See Figure 4 Below) The 1948 addition was built with large, rectangular windows, indicating that natural light was still used widely in the late 1940s, even though interior lighting had improved, largely negating the use of exterior windows.(See Figure 5 Below) Due to limited interior access it is unclear if the addition was open to the rest of the mill, but it is known that the addition had the ever typical steel framing.

Figure 4: Photographer facing west. Notice the 1948 addition at the right of the photograph and the original 1907 mill, barely visible, to the left./ Photograph in possession of author, taken 4/12/11

Figure 5: Photographer facing south./ Photograph in possession of author, taken 4/12/11

Tallapoosa Cotton Mills shows the importance of carefully examining Georgia’s cotton mills to determine how they changed following World War II. Even after studying how Georgia’s mills changed following World War II for the better part of two semester I still expected to see mill additions that looked a certain way, or clearly indicated significant changes. Even so, Tallapoosa’s addition reinforces the transitional period in mill additions, whereby mills in the years immediately following World War II chose not to move away from multi-storied additions that relied on expansive windows, but instead they incorporated construction techniques that allowed windows to comprise most of the exterior of textile mills, highlighting the conservative nature of Georgia’s textile mill.

**May is National Historic Preservation Month and The Georgia Trust is recognizing the month with a Thursday evening lecture series. Join us on the evening of May 12th for a presentation by Steven Eubanks. Click HERE for more information about the May's events.

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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