Fact Friday 145 - Victor Cotton Mill and Charlotte's First Class-Segregated Neighborhoods
Victor Cotton Mill was the model of a new style of mill construction. The Victor Mill was part of a major expansion of Charlotte's industrial core that occurred in 1889. Three cotton mills were designed and placed into production that year by the D. A. Tompkins Company, co-founded by Tompkins and R. M. Miller in 1884. The Alpha Mill opened on East Twelfth Street in February 1889, and the Ada Mill nearby on West Eleventh Street went into operation not long after. The largest and most imposing of the three Tompkins mills that opened that year was the Victor Cotton Mill. Located on land near the intersection of South Cedar and Third Streets, the four-story plan contained 10,560 spindles and was the tallest mill in Charlotte. The Victor Mill was the first major industrial structure built in the Third Ward area beyond Graham Street and the Southern Railway tracks, which had remained virtually underdeveloped in the city's early history. This photograph (below) of the mill and its distinctive decorative tower was taken in 1915.
The three 1889 Tompkins factories broke Charlotte's familiar pattern of locating industrial plants within the city's main urban area, and were designed to provide room for company-owned housing that would attract a large workforce to the mills. This new adoption of the Northern mill village concept made the areas around the factories Charlotte's first class-segregated neighborhoods, populated mostly by blue-collar laborers. Around 1907 the Victor Mill, by that time known as Continental Manufacturing, began to develop its surplus land as a working-class residential area called Woodlawn, a streetcar suburb on the West Trade trolley line at the time. Although the Alpha Mill and part of the Ada Mill still survive today, the Victor Mill was demolished sometime in the 1950s. Today the area on which the mill stood is occupied in part by one of the dormitory halls and administration areas of culinary institute Johnson and Wales University, and in part, by the Carolina Panthers football practice field.
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Information taken from:
Charlotte Then and Now, Brandon Lunsford, 2013.
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass