1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Thrift Mill is located at 8300 Moore's Chapel Road in Charlotte, North
2. Name, address and telephone number of the present owner of the
property: The owner of the property is:
Warehouse Investors, Inc.
Columbia, South Carolina 29202
3. Representative photographs of the property: This report
contains representative photographs of the property.
4. A map depicting the location of the property: This report
contains a map depicting the location of the property.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the property: The most recent
deed to this property is recorded in Mecklenburg County Deed Book 6130 on
page 926. The Tax Parcel number of the property is #055-011-03.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains
a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Mary Beth Gatza.
7. A brief physical description of the property: This report
contains a brief physical description of the property prepared by Mary Beth
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets criteria
for designation set forth in in N. C. G. S. 160A-400.5:
a. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture,
and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property
known as the Thrift Mill does possess special significance in terms of
Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the following
considerations: 1) the Thrift Mill is one of the last big textile mills
that was built in Charlotte-Mecklenburg during the mill-building period
which lasted from 1881 to c. 1913. 2) the Thrift Mill is unusual in that
it was situated in a rural area and was miles away from an urban workforce
when it was originally built.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling
and/or association: The Commission contends that the physical
description by Mary Beth Gatza which is included in this report
demonstrates that the Thrift Mill meets this criterion.
9. Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that
designation would allow the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 50%
of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property which becomes
a designated "historic landmark." The current total appraised value of the
72,989 square feet is $1,215,570. The property is zoned I-2.
Date of Preparation of this Report: 19 November 1991.
Prepared by: Mary Beth Gatza
314 West Eighth Street
Charlotte, North Carolina 28202
The Thrift Mill opened in 1912 in the burgeoning village of Thrift in
Mecklenburg County. Thrift is located along the tracks of the Piedmont and
Northern Railroad, which ran an electric line from Charlotte to Gastonia.
depot at Thrift was erected in 1911-12, and soon became a busy terminal,
as commuter service between Thrift and Charlotte was offered on a daily
basis. This, no doubt, made Thrift an attractive location for a textile
The land was purchased in August 1912 for $15,000 by the Thayer
Manufacturing Company. Thayer was based in Massachusetts, but had principal
offices in Charlotte. 1 Unable to pay their debts, however, they
were ordered by the court to sell the property at public sale on June 2,
1913. The highest and only bid received was from the Thrift Manufacturing
Company, who purchased the property for $59,000 in cash and $127,000 in
Thrift Manufacturing Company stock. In exchange for the cash and stock, the
Thrift Manufacturing Company was deeded 120 acres and the existing
buildings. The deed lists a "Factory building 154 x 225, two stories high;
and weave shed 163 x 210, with a saw tooth roof, and basement; boiler room
42 x 46; brick chimney 450 H.P.; pump room 21 x 22; cotton warehouse 100 x
100; cotton opening room 31 x 42; also ten cottages for operatives." 2
The Thrift Manufacturing Company continued operations for only twelve years.
In 1924, the property was transferred to Henry P. Kendall, of Walpole,
Massachusetts. 3 A newspaper article in the Charlotte News
on March 25 of that year, describes Mr. Kendall as a "Boston Capitalist."
While they were in town, he and his associates stayed at the newly-opened
Hotel Charlotte and Mr. Kendall made a public statement concerning the
acquisition. He "spoke with radiant optimism Tuesday of his hopes for the
local plant and of his determination to continue it on the same high basis
of efficiency in operation as has characterized the administration of those
from whom he made the purchase." 4 In addition, Mr. Kendall was
quoted as saying that the mill was "one of the outstanding cotton goods
plants in the entire South, and of the country. Its product...was known
Nationally as ranking with the best produced anywhere." 5 Of
Charlotte, he remarked: "I am delighted with what I have come to know of
North Carolina and of Charlotte in particular. You have a wonderful city
here and one that is destined to expand into one of the great populous
centers of the Southeast. Everything that a city needs to make it develop in
a business and industrial way, you have down here."6
In the mid-1920s, the mill at Thrift was operating with 30,240 spindles,
676 looms and 60 cards. They consumed about 1,500,000 pounds of raw cotton
(one half of it from local sources) and the value of the product (gauze) was
about $1,500,000. 7 Kendall's purchase in North Carolina would
prove to be but one in a series of acquisitions that would build his company
into a giant. At the time of the Thrift purchase, he also owned two mills in
South Carolina (the Wateree in Camden, and the Addison in Edgefield), and
two in New England (the Lewis Manufacturing Company and the Slatersville
Finishing Company). The newspaper article explains: "Some years ago, Mr.
Kendall said, he decided that it would be economical for him to develop
cotton manufacturing in the South in order to have sufficient goods for use
in his Massachusetts finishing plants." 8
The Kendall empire had its beginnings in a small bleachery in Walpole,
Massachusetts in 1903. At the time, Kendall employed less than eighty people
there. By 1948, a mere 45 years later, the company had more than 7,000
employees in eighteen plants. The Fourteen domestic plants were clustered in
New England (5), South Carolina (6), North Carolina (1), and the Midwest
(2). Foreign plants were located in Canada, Mexico, Cuba and Buenos Aires.
They operated a total of 300,000 spindles and 6,400 looms, and used about
100,000 bales of cotton yearly. 9
Despite the fact that its productivity had already been attested to,
Kendall had immediate plans for the mill at Thrift. He announced his
intention to enlarge the mill and build new operatives cottages. 10
Agricultural Mecklenburg and Industrial Charlotte, published around
1925, verifies that "extensive improvements are contemplated and some
already under way, by the new owners." 11 That "extensive"
improvements were enacted, however, is questionable. No physical evidence on
the mill building remains to suggest a 1920s period of construction. All of
the principal structures remaining in 1990 were mentioned in the deed of
1913. The existing additions to the mill building date from much later.
By the 1940s, the Kendall Company was well established and produced a
variety of products. A self-published company booklet, written in 1948,
explains that: "The Company's three divisions--Kendall Mills Grey, Kendall
Mills Finishing, and Bauer & Black (surgical dressings)--operate both as
independent and as interdependent units. For each division serves the
others, as supplier or customer." Kendall Mills Grey produced "grey" cloth,
which is the woven, but unbleached and unfinished cotton cloth. It was this
division that acted as supplier to the others. The grey cloth was shipped
either to the Finishing Division or to Bauer & Black. The Bauer & Black
division was known for its line of surgical dressings and products. Kendall
Mills Finishing transformed the grey cloth into a number of marketable
products, sold under the "Curity" trademark. 13
The mill at Thrift was the headquarters for the Grey Division, also
called the Cotton Mill Division. It was this division which supported the
others by transforming the raw, baled cotton into the intermediate product.
The grey cloth was then sold to the Finishing Division and to Bauer & Black
at prices much lower than the open market. In this way, Kendall Mills was
able to keep prices down and thus encourage demand.
After leaving the mill at Thrift, the grey cloth would travel to any of
the three finishing plants or six Bauer & Black plants. The finishing plants
were all located in New England (Walpole and Griswoldville in Massachusetts,
and Slatersville in Rhode Island). There, the cloth was transformed into a
number of consumer products, sold under the Kendall, Clex, Perx, Sabel,
Webril, Rymplecloth and Curity brand names. Items produced include a variety
of fabrics, gauze, cotton balls, mosquito netting, milk filters, diapers.
The Webril non-woven fabrics were used for tea bags, permanent wave pads and
casket linings. 14
Bauer & Black may not be a familiar household term, but the brand name,
it was said, "carries an enviable reputation for quality and
responsibility." 15 Initially, they sold only to hospitals, but
eventually expanded the line to include home first aid products. Included in
this category are first aid kits, gauze bandages and pads marketed under the
familiar Curity trademark. Athletic supporters were sold under both Bauer &
Black and Bike brand names. 16 (For a full listing of Kendall
products, see appendix 1.)
Despite this glowing picture of productivity, the Kendall Company sold
the mill at Thrift in 1958. A purchase agreement was signed in April of that
year between Kendall and U.P.D., Inc. According to a former company
executive, Allen Knitting Mills was the actual owner, and U.P.D. was a name
used only for the purchase of the property. Allen Knitting Mills had three
divisions. Standard Textile Mills was the knitting mill, the Thrift Dye
Works was located in the dye house, and the United Bonding Company also
operated on the premises. United Bonding Company produced laminated fabrics
during the 1960s. Popular for coats and even dresses, the fabric was made by
sandwiching a foam core between a backing fabric and a facing fabric.
Operations continued in this manner until 1973 when the property was
transferred to Standard Textile Mills, Inc. At that time, the knitting and
bonding mills closed and only the dye works remained. 18 In 1980,
Standard borrowed 1.85 million dollars from the Connecticut Bank and Trust
Company but was unable to repay the loan. They defaulted, and the property
was sold at public auction on October 15, 1981. The highest bidder, for
$250,000, was the Economic Development Administration (an agency of the
United States Department of Commerce), who then became the legal owner. They
held the property for less than one year before selling to Donrick Trade
Donrick was a father-son partnership, and used the premises for a
warehouse and auction center. The elder partner, Don Cox, was known and
respected in the community until his death in recent years. Donrick conveyed
the property in 1989 to Warehouse Investors of South Carolina who lease
space for general warehousing and artists studios. 20
The Thrift Mill is unique in Mecklenburg County because it is the only
mill which was built essentially in isolation. Other mills were erected in
more densely populated sections where there would be a ready supply of mill
workers. Even the mills built outside the Charlotte vicinity were all
located in a town of some size (Davidson, Cornelius, Huntersville and
Pineville all had textile mills.) In addition, it is probably the last of
the big cotton mills built during the mill-building period which lasted from
1881 to c. 1913.
1 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 291, p. 558.
2 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 312, pp. 275-76.
3 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 559, p. 329.
4 Charlotte News, 25 March 1924, p. 1.
5 Charlotte News, 25 March 1924, p. 9.
6 Charlotte News, 25 March 1924, p. 9.
7 Edgar T. Thompson, Agricultural Mecklenburg and
Industrial Charlotte Social and Economic. (Charlotte: Charlotte Chamber
of Commerce, c. 1925 ?), p. 143.
8 Charlotte News, 25 March 1924, p. 9.
9 The Kendall Company, The Kendall Story (n.p., 1948),
10 Charlotte News, 25 March 1924, p. 1.
11 The Kendall Company, The Kendall Story, p. 143.
12 The Kendall Company, The Kendall Story, p. 1.
13 The Kendall Company, The Kendall Story, pp. 1-5.
14 The Kendall Company, The Kendall Story, pp. 7, 21.
15 The Kendall Story, p. 9.
16 The Kendall Story, p. 24.
17 Interview with Lou Holtzman by Christina Wright, May 1991.
18 Interview with Lou Holtzman by Christina Wright, May 1991.
19 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 4306, p. 687; DB 4521, p. 843.
20 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 6130, p. 926.
The Thrift Mill complex contains three main buildings, two smaller
structures, and a water tower. All extant structures appear to date from the
initial, 1912-13 period of construction, though the main mill building has
received two later additions.
The main mill building is the largest and most imposing structure in the
complex. It is essentially a rectangle, with small tower-like projections at
the northeast and northwest corners. The brick building stands two stories
tall and seven bays wide. The entire structure is covered by a
roof, with a clerestory which runs the length of the building. All of
windows are large, multi-paned, industrial steel sash windows. All are
topped by brick segmental arches and have cast stone sills. A few windows
have been bricked in, but the majority are merely boarded up.
There are two later additions to the main building. One runs the length
of the south elevation and appears to date from the mid-twentieth century.
It it said to have been constructed cat 1968-69, and thus would have been
constructed during Allen Mills tenure at the site.1 The other
addition, on the northwest corner, enlarges the space which connects the
main structure with the weave shed, and is likely from the Kendall period.
The interior of the main building is characterized by large open spaces,
pierced only by round iron support columns. The upper floor is illuminated
by the clerestory windows which run the length of the building. The
structure of the clerestory is supported by massive triangular truss
The weave shed is impressive in itself. Almost as large as the main
structure, the salient feature is its sawtooth roof. The building is
oriented north-south, with the skylight windows opening to the north. This
was so that the space would be illuminated with indirect, natural sunlight
by day. Like the main building, the interior is a single open space. It is
illuminated from above by the sawtooth skylights, which are supported also
by iron columns.
A similar north-facing skylight is found on the office bay of the
warehouse building. On this building, however, the roofline behind the
window forms a semi-circle, rather than the more usual sawtooth
configuration. The office section of the warehouse is all brick, whereas the
remainder of the building is frame with brick firewalls. Originally, a short
spur from the P & N tracks ran alongside this building, next to the concrete
loading platform. Here, raw material could be unloaded from the train
directly into the warehouse.
Other structures on the property include a brick pump house, a small
brick structure (function unknown), and an original water tower. The
adjacent water tower serves the mill village nearby and is no longer a part
of this tax parcel.
Although the original mill equipment is no longer extant, the Thrift Mill
retains a very high degree of integrity. Only a few of the windows have been
sealed, a common alteration in buildings of this type Virtually all interior
and exterior fabric is original and in good general condition. In addition,
all of the original structures are still standing. Nearby, the mill village,
complete with baseball field, remains intact, though various alterations to
the houses have taken place over the years. About one-half mile away, there
is an old mill cemetery. It is the only such cemetery identified in either
the 1988 County Survey or the 1989 City Survey.
1 Interview with Lou Holtzman by Christina Wright, May 1991.