A SURVEY OF
COTTON MILLS IN CHARLOTTE AND MECKLENBURG COUNTY
FOR THE CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG HISTORIC LANDMARKS COMMISSION
Dr. Dan L. Morrill
I. Statement of Purpose
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, formerly Historic
Properties Commission, was created in 1973 by joint action of the
Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners and the Charlotte City Council.
The Commission functions to identify landmarks of local, regional, state or
national significance in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and to recommend their
designation as "historic landmarks." Pursuant to this mandate, the
Commission conducts surveys that permit it to formulate its recommendations
on the basis of a comprehensive understanding and appreciation of specific
categories of buildings, structures, sites, and objects. As a general rule,
these surveys are organized in one of the three following manners:
1) to examine properties in a geographic area, district or neighborhood,
e.g., Piedmont Park, Elizabeth, Biddleville, Steele Creek, and Davidson;
2) to examine properties which serve a certain function, e.g.,
transportation facilities, industrial plants, agricultural edifices
and cemeteries; and
3) to examine properties which exhibit the characteristics of a certain
architectural style or type of design, e.g., Federal, Queen Anne, Colonial
Revival, Greek Revival or Bungaloid.
It is the purpose of this survey to identify the
buildings and structures in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County that were
associated with the spinning and weaving of cotton fiber. For reasons of
completeness, the survey includes both extant and non-extant facilities. The
format is chronological, beginning with the earliest cotton mill and
terminating with the most recent. The Commission recognizes that this survey
of cotton mills is not definitive. Undoubtedly, additional sources of
information will become known. Indeed, the task of identifying and
evaluating the historic elements in the built or man-made environment is
never done, because history itself is an evolutionary phenomenon.
Accordingly, the Commission urges anyone having information or knowledge
concerning the history of cotton mills in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County
to contact us.
II. The Cotton Mills of Charlotte and Mecklenburg
The earliest mills in Charlotte-Mecklenburg
The first cotton mill in Mecklenburg County was located in the Steele Creek
community of southwestern Mecklenburg. Its owner, William Henry Neel, was a
prominent citizen, having been a County Commissioners, a member of the
Steele Creek Presbyterian Church, an officer in the local militia, and a
successful cotton farmer. He operated a grist mill near what is now Withers
Cove on Lake Wiley. Sometime during the 1850's, he placed some spindles in
this facility and produced yarn. The output was modest. The mill closed
before the end of the Civil War. No physical remains of the mill survive.
The first facility in Mecklenburg County devoted
exclusively to the spinning of cotton fiber was the Glenroy Cotton Mill.
Founded by E. C. Grier and his son, G. S. Grier, the miss was located about
half way between Matthews, N.C., and Providence Presbyterian Church, in
southeastern Mecklenburg County. It contained 350 spindles and produced bale
yarn. It was established in 1874 and operated for approximately eighteen
months. The building was demolished in 1899.
Charlotte Cotton Mills
A momentous event in the industrial development of Charlotte, N.C., occurred
in 1880-1881, when R. M. Oates and his brother, D. W. Oates, established the
Charlotte Cotton Mills. The facility initially contained 6,240 spindles and
employed approximately seventy people, mostly women. Construction began in
April 1880, and the plant went into full operation on March 8, 1851. The
Daily Charlotte Observer stated that the building was a "new departure"
from the usual style of factory edifice, in that it was one-story in height.
Built in the shape of an 'L," the Charlotte Cotton Mills fronted on West
Fifth St., then near the edge of town. A substantial portion of the original
On May 27, 1880, the Daily Charlotte Observer
speculated about the probable impact of the Charlotte Cotton Mills upon the
industrial development of Charlotte.
That it will add much to Charlotte's material Prosperity no one
doubts, and some predict that it will be the means of bringing similar
enterprises into operation.
These were to prove to be prophetic words.
Alpha Cotton Mill, the Ada Cotton Mill, and the Victor Cotton Mill
The Alpha Mill
The Orient (Alpha) Mill Village
A major expansion of the industrial base of Charlotte, N.C., occurred in
1888-89. Three cotton mills were organized and placed into production. All
were erected by the D. A. Tompkins Co. This firm, co-founded by Daniel
Augustus Tompkins and R. M. Miller, Sr. in 1884, included among its
activities the construction and outfitting of cotton mills and cotton oil
The Alpha Cotton Mill was the first mill in this region
that sold its stock on the so-called installment plan. Investors paid 25
cents per share. Located on East 12th Street, at the very
northern edge of town, the initial structure followed the local custom of
being one-story in height.
Devoted exclusively to the production of yarn, the Alpha
Mill opened in February 1889. E. K. P. Osborne provided the fundamental
impetus for the establishment of the mill. In 1900, a stock company headed
by H. D. Wheat purchased the Alpha Mill and changed its name to the Orient
Cotton Mill. In 1901, the plant was enlarged by the erection of a two-story
addition. The enlarged mill remains largely unchanged.
The Ada Cotton Mill, a one-story edifice on West 11th
Street, was also financed on the installment plan. John L. Brown was
president of the firm, which was organized in January 1888. The plant
initially contained 8,320 spindles and went into operation in early 1889.
Approximately one-half of the Ada Cotton Mill survives.
The largest and most imposing of the three mills that
opened in early 1889 was the Victor Cotton Mill. Located on South Cedar
Street, the plant contained 10,560 spindles. G. E. Wilson was president, and
A. C. Hutchinson was secretary and treasurer. The Victor departed from
Charlotte's norm in that it had more than two floors. The Victor Mill has
Highland Park Manufacturing Company Plant No. 1 (The Gingham Mill).
On June 19, 1891, the Charlotte Democrat announced that the Highland Park
Manufacturing Co., a firm recently organized with W. E. Holt as president
and C. W. Johnson as secretary and treasurer, would erect a Gingham Mill in
Construction began soon thereafter, and the facility opened in early
1892. The plant, situated on North Brevard Street, then just outside of
Charlotte, contained 465 looms and produced gingham. A portion of the mill
Atherton Cotton Mills. The Atherton Cotton Mills, located on the
southern edge of Dilworth, was the first mill built, owned, and operated by
the D. A. Tompkins Company. Construction began on August 23, 1892, and moved
forward expeditiously until the facility went into full operation in April
The Atherton Cotton Mills was a spinning mill that produced two to
four-ply yarns, sizes twenty to fifty. Containing ten thousand producing
spindles and five thousand twisting spindles, the plant was a one-story
structure with a basement. The Atherton Cotton Mills has recently been
turned into condominiums.
Louise Cotton Mill
The Louise Cotton Mill opened on May 31, 1897. Named for the wife of the
president of the firm, H. S. Chadwick, the plant contained 7000 spindles and
368 looms. A two-story building 90 feet wide and 360 feet long, the Louise
Mill was located on the Seaboard Airline Railroad just east of Charlotte. In
1900 a major addition was constructed, increasing the capacity to 20,000
spindles. A substantial portion of the Louise Mill survives.
Magnolia Cotton Mill. The Magnolia Cotton Mill was established c.
1899. It contained 3072 spindles and was located on South Graham Street. A.
C. Summerville was the president. The Magnolia Mill has been demolished.
Chadwick Cotton Mill
Named for H. S. Chadwick, the Chadwick Mill went into production on October
16, 1901. It was regarded as one of the finest facilities of its kind in the
South. E. A. Smith was president. The brick work was done by the J. A. Jones
Construction Company. Three-stories high, the plant contained 12,000
spindles and 300 looms. Its principal products were yarns and sheeting. It
was located on the Seaboard Airline Railroad just west of Biddleville. The
Chadwick Mill has been demolished.
Elizabeth Cotton Mill
From a 1907 advertisement
The Elizabeth Cotton Mill was located on the Southern Railroad to the
immediate southwest of Charlotte. It was named for the daughter of its
president, R. M. Miller, Jr. Vinton Liddell, a local industrialist, was
vice-president. The Elizabeth Cotton Mill opened in late 1901. It contained
5000 spindles and 3000 twisters. A one and one-half story structure, the
plant produced fine yarn. A substantial portion of the Elizabeth Cotton Mill
Hoskins Cotton Mill
The Hoskins Cotton Mill opened in the spring of 1904. It was the sister mill
of the Chadwick Cotton Mill, owned and constructed by the same firm -- the
Chadwick Manufacturing Company. Located just to the west of the Chadwick
Cotton Mill, the Hoskins Cotton Mill has been converted into housing. The J.
A. Jones Company erected the Hoskins Cotton Mill.
Highland Park Manufacting Company Plant No. 3
Highland Park Cotton Mill No. 3 was the largest and the most imposing cotton
erected in Charlotte. It opened in November 1904. Located on the Southern
Railroad to the immediate north of Charlotte, the plant was designed and
constructed by Stuart W. Cramer. Highland No. 3 contained 20,000 spindles
and 500 looms. Eight hundred people worked in the plant. The principal
product was gingham. Highland No. 3 closed in 1969. The mill is largely
unchanged from the original.
Mecklenburg Cotton Mill
The Mecklenburg Cotton Mill opened in November 1904. It received its power
from the power house of the Highland Park Manufacturing Company and was
located just north of Highland No. 3. The mill is largely original and has
been converted into housing.
The Savona Manufacturing Company. The Savona Manufacturing Company
opened in 1908 in the building which had formerly housed the D. A. Tompkins
Company on South College Street. Its first plant has been demolished. A new
factory for the Savona Manufacturing Company was built on Turner Avenue in
west Charlotte in 1920.
The Johnston Manufacturing Company The Johnston Manufacturing
Company, located in north Charlotte between Highland No. 3 and the
Mecklenburg Mill, was established in 1913 by C. W. Johnston. It manufactured
cotton yarn. The plant closed in March 1975, thereby bringing to an end the
history of active cotton mills in Charlotte, N.C.
Chronology of Cotton Mills in Charlotte-Mecklenburg