North Carolina used to have a thriving textile industry whose mills were world renowned suppliers of yarns, fabrics, clothing, hosiery, cotton products, mattress ticking, military materials, plaids, etc. Those days have passed and now NC is dotted with vine covered, neglected old mill buildings. Lately though, there's a growing interest in saving the old buildings, repurposing them but keeping architectural facets in place. Some are being turned into beautiful shopping malls, full of huge, gleaming golden beams, expansive windows and heavy, polished ironwork.
One such restoration has happened in the village of Saxapahaw, a tiny hamlet with approximately 1800 residents. It's far from the interstate, miles from any large town, found only by traveling down windy country roads or by canoeing down the Haw River. Sitting on the river is the old cotton mill, mill complex buildings, the company administrative office, a one-room schoolhouse and dozens of tiny, quaint mill houses.
The mill opened in 1844, established by a Quaker settler. It remained a working facility for 150 years, until a tornado hit the area, damaged much of the area and the owners decided not to rehabilitate after the extensive storm damage. After languishing for decades and falling into disrepair, a local leader whose family had lived in the village for generations, gathered like-minded people together to rehab, restore and re-imagine.
|photo via village archive|
Today, the old mill is filled with gorgeous, high-ceiling residential lofts. Sitting along the river it's a gorgeous spot to watch the water birds and swift water running over huge rock formations. The area is heavily wooded and hiking trails have been created there. The golden wood floors, the heavy beams and some of the old machinery remains as a clue or reminder of the complex's history.
It's a gathering place, full of environmentally conscious people, artists, musicians, and folks who love the outdoors. A fabulous pub with world-class food offerings, a general store that also offers amazing noshes 7 days a week, a bio-fuel station, a farmer's market, outdoor music venue, and charter school all have all taken up residence at the complex.
Surrounding the village are organic farms, a winery, cute little antiques shops, a village bookstore, art gallery and the fabulous Paperhand Puppet Intervention Company that I've mentioned in previous posts.
The old dye-house has been renovated into a fantastic music venue which attracts top-notch music groups from NC as well as acclaimed national acts. It's also a popular spot for weddings, conferences, music jams and other community events. A great coffee shop sits just outside the "ballroom" and residents and visitors enjoy their coffee on the deck overlooking the river. It's a great spot to watch the sunset.So what once might have been a worn-out eyesore has been renovated into something lovely. I think that the pieces of machinery that were left in place and serve as a marker to an industry that's long-gone, and the families whose lives depended on it are perfect, rusty treasures.