Fact Friday 175 - Up Close and Personal at Savona Mill
The day before Thanksgiving, I had the day off from work (my 9-to-5 anyways) and took a meeting over in West Charlotte to discuss community impact and ways to bring UNC Charlotte students closer to local entrepreneurs. I went to high school at Harding on the west side and go over there occasionally for one thing or another, but being that I don't live there, nothing really brings me over there frequently. At any rate, the meeting location was at Enderly Coffee on Tuckaseegee Rd. I'm sure a ton of you have been there, but this was my first visit. It was a great space and they had great coffee. I highly recommend you check it out. After the meeting, I decided to take a familiar route back towards the city. I know my way around the west side quite well actually, because I used to have to catch the city bus (CATS) over there all the time when I was younger and didn't have my own vehicle.
The route I took back towards uptown took me through historic Seversville (which I'll do a Fact Friday on later). Many parts of this community have and continue to be totally transformed from the way I remember it when I was younger. New, and larger development is everywhere. I drove slowly just to take it all in... and in some of the industrial areas, wondered what's in this building... and that building. I do this all the time when I'm driving places and I see non-descript buildings... I always wonder what business is inside. This time I had the day off, so was just going to be a tourist for a bit. Then I stumbled upon this absolutely huge structure that appeared to be totally abandoned, next to Blue Blaze Brewing. I thought to myself, "How can it be that no one is using this building? Right next to all this new and trendy development?"
Not knowing what it was, I got out and took a few pictures from the back and side of the facility.
There were some signs that said "Savona" so I decided I would Google it and see if anything came up. As it turns out, the facility is a historic mill that's been abandoned for years, but played a significant role in the local textile industry, which made and shaped Charlotte into a New South city long before financial services took over. The facility was actually added to the National Register of Historic Places in December 2014. Want to geek out to the full program write up? Click here.
After texting a childhood friend of mine, Scott Stallings, about something else, I mentioned to him that I'd stumbled across this monstrosity of a structure and not only did he already know what I was talking about, he'd been inside!! What?!?! Scott and I were in the 4th grade together and today, he's an incredibly talented photographer (check him out at greylightphoto.com and on Instagram @_smfs_). Within just a few minutes, he was kind enough to email me a few of his photos from inside. Needless to say they're much cooler than mine lol. Peep game below.
Inside historic Savona Mill. Scott Stallings
Following the Civil War, Charlotte began to experience a transition from an economy based largely on agriculture to one that relied heavily on manufacturing. The change was the result of a number of factors that turned much of agricultural Mecklenburg County into a metropolitan area by the 1920s. By 1880, Meck. County was the highest producer of cotton in the state of North Carolina and its county seat saw a boom in population and investments. Charlotte's population increased from 2,265 in 1860 just before the start of the Civil War to 18,091 in 1900 and again to 34,014 by 1910. Much of this growth was driven by the arrival of textile manufacturing in the region and investors looking to revive the southern economy behind the slogan "Bring the Mills to the Cotton." The city's access to transportation, both rail and roadways, development of reliable electricity and the vast inexpensive pool of laborers motivated many entrepreneurs, including D. A. Tompkins, to invest in industrial enterprises.
From the National Park Service:
The Savona Mill meets National Register Criterion C as an excellent example of the evolution of industrial architecture with three distinct periods of construction techniques and materials utilized by industrial designers during the twentieth century. The Savona Mill at 528 South Turner A venue in the West End neighborhood of Charlotte was constructed in 1916 as a heavy timber frame textile mill and was substantially enlarged in 1921 and 1951. The additions to the building were done to meet the manufacturing needs of the occupants in a manner that reflected the best practices of architectural design for manufacturing buildings. The property was owned and operated by the Savona Manufacturing Company from 1916 until 1934 during a time of great growth in Charlotte's textile manufacturing history. All textile production ceased at the site in 1934 and the property was later occupied by the Old Dominion Box Company. The extant structures at the Savona Mill are excellent examples of three distinctive methods of industrial construction: heavy timber mill construction; combination iron and timber fireproof construction; and reinforced concrete framed construction with concrete mushroom columns. The building retains a relatively high degree of historic integrity of location, type, construction, size and significant features to convey its architectural significance. The period of significance for the property starts in 1916 wben the first extant building (Weave Mill) was completed and extends through 1951, when the final contributing section (Paper Warehouse) was completed.
Until next week!
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Information taken from:
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass