Posts Tagged ‘Victorian mill architecture’


January 29, 2009


From “The Maxi Page,” The Randolph Guide Senior Adult Newspaper Supplement, published April 29, 1981.

The Enterprise Manufacturing Company, ca. 1890.

The wooden factory was replaced circa 1915.

Coleridge was the home of the Enterprise Manufacturing Company, the southern most cotton mill built on Deep River. Its construction in 1882 was the final link in the chain of Randolph County’s water-powered textile industries which had begun to be forged in 1836. The company was organized by H.A.
Moffitt, an Asheboro merchant, and Daniel Lambert and James A. Cole, prominent citizens of southeastern Randolph. The original structure was a two-and-one-half story wooden building housing 800 spindles and 26 workers. The facilities of the corporation included a wool-carding mill, saw mill, and flour mill.

The surrounding village was known first as Cole’s Ridge and then as Coleridge, after James A. Cole, who in 1904 sold a majority interest in the company to his son-in-law, Dr. Robert L. Caveness. By 1917 it was said that “R. L. Caveness is at the head of practically everything in Coleridge,” and it was under his influence that the brick mill facilities were built. The factory (built in the 1920’s) is of utilitarian design with Tudor Revival entrance towers. The company store, bending mill, and warehouse (all built circa 1910), and the company office and Bank of Coleridge (built in the 1920’s) were all constructed in the Romanesque Revival style. Caveness also directed the town’s only other industry, the Coleridge Manufacturing Company, which made parts of bentwood chairs.

The Concord Methodist Church was built in Coleridge in 1887. Just behind the church building was located the Coleridge Academy, which included a room for the Masonic Lodge. The academy was formed in 1890 from two smaller schools, and closed in 1936. The Bank of Coleridge was founded in 1919, opened a branch in Ramseur in 1934, and moved there in 1939. The Enterprise Roller Mill, grinding wheat with steel rollers instead of stones, was the first roller mill in Randolph County. Its “Our Leader” flour was
very popular in the area. Dr. Caveness remained personally involved in the operation of the mill, although he tried to return to his medical practice in 1922.

The Enterprise Manufacturing Company Store

In 1959 the mill boasted 6,000 spindles and 150 employees, manufacturing cotton or knitting yarn and twine. In 1951, Dr. Caveness died and the business immediately began to decline. His heirs sold out to Boaz Mills of Alabama in 1954, and in 1958 the mill was closed and the equipment sold off. The buildings have since been used as warehouse space.

The village was Randolph County’s first historic district, and has been placed on the National Register or Historic Places. Its 1970 nomination stated that “the chief appeal of this site is as a picturesque example of a riverside mill seen in one of North Carolina’s oldest manufacturing sections.”

These illustrations can be found in the Randolph County Public Library’s collection of historic photographs, .

They were previously used to illustrate portions of Randolph County: 1779-1979, the county bicentennial book.

Randolph Manufacturing Company Interior

January 17, 2009
Randolph Mfg. Co. Interior

Randolph Mfg. Co. Interior

Before we leave the east end of Franklinville, here’s my only interior view of the 1895 Randolph Manufacturing Company mill.

It’s the spinning room, but the weave room boss, Oliver York, is the mustachioed gent second from the left.   Mr. York must be visiting for the photographer, either George Russell, the superintendent of the upper mill, or “Jack” Parks (Hugh Parks Jr.), the son of the mill owner, both of whom were amateur photographers at the time.

The spinning room ran the length of the 2nd floor of the longest section of the building, between the stair tower and the river.  The weave room was on the first floor, below, as was common in every factory (looms vibrated, and hundreds of looms running in sync vibrated enough to shake a building down, unless they were situated on the lowest floors).

The spinning frames were manufactured by the Lowell Machine Shop, one of the oldest makers of American textile machinery.  The company began as the in-house machine shop of the Merrimack Mfg. Co. in Lowell, Mass., and later merged with the Saco Mfg. Co. of Biddeford, Maine, to become Saco-Lowell.   These are “ring spinning” frames, a technology invented in the 1820s but not embraced by manufacturers until the 1850s.  Early spinning frames used revolving “flyers” to draw the yarn out into thinner and thinner lenghts, and to build cones on a bobbin, and were called “throstles” because the high-speed whirring sounded like birds.  Ring spinning replaced the flyer with a tiny steel ring, or “traveller,” which slipped over the yarn and created a drag when it ballooned out while spinning.  Doffing full bobbins and replacing the travellers were common jobs in the spinning room.  The buggies in the foreground are full of bobbins.

The machinery is being powered by a system of overhead shafts and pulleys, connected by ropes on the far end to the water wheel and steam engine, and by leather belts to the actual spinning frames.  Hanging from hooks along the center row of wooden columns are metal fire buckets full of sand.  The mill had its own electric dynamo from its construction in 1895, but the single clear light bulbs hanging from individual wires throughout the room are almost lost among all the power shafts and pulleys.  Sprinklers and humidification pipes aren’t yet visible, but would be installed by World War I.

The amount of lint on the floor gives an idea how dusty a spinning room always was, but nothing can show the usual high noise level of the spinning room, or the even more deafening sound of the weave room.  At the time of the photo, obviously, the room would be quiet– all the machinery has stopped, shown by the fact that the pulleys aren’t blurred by motion.

Randolph Manufacturing Company III

January 11, 2009

The 1895 Randolph Manufacturing Company was one of Randolph County’s most visually impressive Victorian mills.

This view, taken from the hilltop front yard of the Dave Weatherly House, shows the north front of the factory.

The plan of the building is that of a block-E, where the center cross is the stair tower and the top and bottom lines are wings that extend over the head race on brick arches.

The Wheel House is that of the original Island Ford factory, located under the smokestack to the far left.

One of the most interesting features of the factory is the wooden bridge over the race to the main stair tower entrance.

The body of water directly in front of the mill is the “Bleacher Pond,” providing water for bleaching, printing and dyeing processes.

The aerial photo below, taken in the 1950s, shows the factory after numerous 20th-century additions. The stair tower has been removed, and the entire hollow center of the “E” has been filled in. An expanded weave room extends west to the steel bridge; the bleachery, print works, fleece napping, and sanforizing process are contained in the new wings to the east that replaced the old cotton warehouse.

Only the 1950s-era wings east of the smokestack survived the 1984/85 demolition of the rest of the building.

Randolph Manufacturing Company II

January 8, 2009

Before we leave the back (south) side of the 1895 Randolph Manufacturing Company, here are two more pictures of interest.

The above view is looking up Deep River towards the northwest; the 1901 Island Ford Steel Bridge is in the dim left background.

Both of these views probably date from the mid-1950s, as the western brick extensions to the lower mill weave room have been built out over the river on pilings almost all the way to the steel bridge.

Two other important additions are visible- the wooden toilet towers. These wooden enclosures are 20th-century versions of the “garderobes” built onto medieval castles—two-story privies cantilevered out over the river, where the waste products (!) drop straight down into the water.

The eastern-most toilet tower can be seen in the photo below, behind the tree in the left center; that tower’s waste dumps into the tail race flowing out of the arch.

Photo No. 2 was taken from the steel bridge, looking down river, east toward the Community Building. The actual historic Island Ford is just at the bottom of the photograph, a rocky shallow spot that allowed crossing the river. Since the photo in yesterday’s entry, numerous additions have been added to the eastern side of the mill, including a two-story metal-sided addition to the old Island Ford wheel house.

Going further east, the wood-framed additions on concrete piers below the Community Building are designed to expand the cotton warehouse, printing, bleaching and shipping departments.

Both photos show how meticulously clean the Randolph Mills maintenance crew kept the river banks. In the days before gas mowers, bush hogs and weed-eaters, crews of (usually black) men and (usually white) school boys on summer vacation kept the whole Town chopped and scythed and spick and span and painted uniformly white. Before the stock laws passed in the early 1890s, the same result was obtained in the landscape by herds of roving free-range livestock, which happily ate most of the stray vegetation not protected by fencing.

Randolph Manufacturing Company, circa 1900

January 8, 2009

Since I was speaking about my collection of original unpublished antique photographs of Randolph County, here’s a great one.

This is the back side of the Randolph Manufacturing Company, built in 1895 on the site of the wooden 1846 Island Ford Manufacturing Company. The photo is obviously taken on a cold winter day, probably circa-1900, but nothing much would change from the viewpoint of this picture before 1925. From the position of the shadows, falling down the size of the mill at about an 85-degree angle, the time of day must be around 11 AM.

The camera is looking at the south side of the building, from a position at or near the front yard of the Joe Dan Hackney house. (I have a great picture of that I’ll show one day.)

The Island Ford mill was positioned just under the smokestack. The two-story, 7-window-bay section under the smokestack seems to include original brick basement and the three-bay section is the wheel house of the Island Ford Factory. The 10 windows of that section are a different size than the tall 1895 windows of the expanded mill, and the C-shaped plan of the 1895 structure is added on just to the west end of the Island Ford foundation.

The archway just under the plume of steam is where the tail race water exits from the turbine wheel; originally one or more wooden or iron water wheels would have been located in the wheel house there.

The free-standing brick structure immediately to the right of that section is a cotton warehouse. Directly on the other side of it runs the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway, and above that is the river road (now East Main Street) winding towards Ramseur. The wooden structure up the hill just above it (about 2:00) is the Lower Company Store, which was later transformed into a community house and movie theater by Randolph Mills.

Across the street from the factory and arrayed on the opposite hilltop are about a dozen mill houses, part of the island Ford mill village which was also situated up and down Mulberry Street (now Academy Street) just out of the picture to the left. The hilltop crowned by the Dave Weatherly House is likewise just out of the frame to the left. Only one of the mill houses on the side still stands, and likewise one on the right side. Both are in poor condition. Just above the company store, and across the street, was the mill owner’s home. At the time of the picture, it was the home of Hugh Parks, who had come to Franklinsville from the Parks Cross Roads area in the 1850s to work as a clerk in the Island Ford Company Store. During the Civil War he became the superintendent of the factory, and after the war he gradually acquired a controlling interest in both factories, and ran them until his death in 1910. Until the 1890s Parks’s house had been the home of Alexander S. Horney, one of the town’s original settlers. A.S. Horney and his father, Dr. Phillip Horney, were partners in the original 1836 Cedar Falls factory with Henry Branson Elliott and his father Benjamin Elliott. Dr. Phillip Horney lived at that time in what we now call the Julian House on West Main Street, the oldest (1819) surviving home in Franklinville.

The identity of the man playing a banjo in the mule-drawn wagon in the foreground is unknown, but his rig is headed toward the Island Ford steel bridge over Deep River, just behind the small house in the left foreground.

To confuse matters, “Randolph Manufacturing Company” was the original 1838 name of the Upper Mill company that took the name “Franklinsville Manufacturing Company” when it was rebuilt after the 1851 fire. To muddy the waters even further, the name of the very first local cotton mill corporation chartered by the state legislature in 1828 was “The Manufacturing Company of the County of Randolph.” The name “Randolph Manufacturing Company” replaced the original name “Island Ford Manufacturing Company” when the new brick building was built in 1895, and continued to be the official name of what locals called simply “the Lower Mill” until the two separate companies were merged into Randolph Mills, Inc., in 1923.