Off and Running!

In August 2012, I wrote a blog post called “Green Light! Go!” which was news about the Loray Mills redevelopment project receiving funding for the project to happen. About once a month, I check the Charlotte Observer and Gaston Gazette for news on the status of the mill and was tickled pink to discover that the project is actually underway.  The money is available, plans are made and the kickoff happened on Tuesday,  April 9, 2013.  Plans include retail space, restaurant space, a textile museum and 190 lofts/apartments.

Gaston Gazette article

Charlotte Observer article

There were already some changes being made to the building when Ted and I went by there in February 2013.  The old guard house in front of the tower entrance had been torn down and just that little bit of work did wonders for the look of the building.  We also had snow the day before and some of it still hadn’t melted from the yard, so I finally had some snow pictures of a mill.

Loray Mill entrance 10/2006

Loray Mill entrance 10/2006

This is the front of the mill with the old guard house in front, taken in 2006.  Below is the front of the mill now with the guard house torn down.

Loray Mill tower entrance, 2013

Loray Mill tower entrance, 2013

During the photo shoot back in January 2006, the one place I couldn’t get to see were the front doors of the building itself.  I had to brace the camera lens through the chain link fence to photograph the front door.

entrance2006In the above shot, you can see the sign for the Franklin Mill Development sales office.  A developer had tried a year or so before then to redevelop the Loray into loft apartments.  Ted and I had gone to see the apartment model and it was gorgeous!  Sadly, it didn’t happen.  Below, is the front door through the tower entrance without the guard house.

entrance2013I’m so glad to see this old mill being given a chance to be re-purposed.  I’ve been inside this building and though there is a lot of work that needs to be done, a lot of it is structurally sound, right down to the beams.  They literally don’t make buildings like this anymore.  It’s survived a century and if given a chance, it will last another century beyond this, and will help give a fresh start to the mill village around it.  I’ll be visiting the site again to photograph her during the renovations.  I can’t wait to see what she’ll look like when they’re done!

Mills in Mysteries

I’ve been a fan of mysteries for quite some time. I love “Dead guy shows”, as Ted refers to them, and my Nook list has mostly cozy mysteries stored in it.  In Summer, 2009, I discovered an author I hadn’t read before, Leann Sweeney, who writes the “Cats in Trouble” series.  The story take place in the fictional town of Mercy, South Carolina, and the heroine of the series is Jillian Hart, a quilter  who makes quilts for cats.  Another reason I love the series is Jillian is also “owned” by three cats, Chablis, Syrah and Merlot. To keep up with new releases, I began following the blog she participates in, The Cozy Chicks, and on Facebook.

The Cat, The Mill and the Murder

Several days ago, the above cover to Ms. Sweeney’s upcoming book was posted and I immediately  was curious about ‘the Mill’ part of it.  I posted the question to her and she sent a reply back saying it was a textile mill.  I had intended to purchase the book on its release since I love her work, but rather than download it as an Ebook, I’ll be buying a copy of it to add to my textile library.

I contacted Ms. Sweeney for permission to  post the cover on my blog and she graciously granted it, as well as attaching a good copy of it for me to use.  She and her family moved to SC this past summer and while looking around, she spotted several of the old mills and the villages that surrounded them, which became the backdrop for the new story.  She also passed along the locations, so trust me, I’ll be heading out there with my camera in the future <G>.

The Cat, The Mill and the Murder has a release date of 05/07/2013 and can be pre-ordered at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other bookstores, either in ebook format or paperback.  In the meantime, you can read the previous books in the series as well as her Yellow Rose Mystery series.  I recommend all of them 🙂

Green Light! Go!!

In 1999, we were trying to convince my mother to move from Florida and up to North Carolina where she’d be closer to us, and during one of her visits, we toured various small towns around the Charlotte area.  We took her to Gastonia, and while driving around looking at houses, we found ourselves in the west side of Gastonia and could see a large red  brick building off of Highway 74.  Sometime later, we came back to check out the building, the Loray Mill, also known as the Firestone Mill.  This was the building that sparked my interest in photography, architecture, mills and textile history.  I was even one of the lucky photographers that was given access to the building and explored several of its floors.

Loray Mill, Gastonia, NC, October 2006

For years, Preservation North Carolina, Gaston County Historic  Preservation Commission and various folks interested in saving the mill have been trying to get the funding to begin renovations, transforming the abandoned structure into a combination of lofts and shops while preserving its history. As of the end of June, 2012, they received the good news that the renovation had a green light to start (http://www.gastongazette.com/articles/mill-72596-federal-loray.html). I couldn’t believe what I was reading!  Oh yes, I was excited to hear of this   🙂

I’ll post more about the Loray Mill in a future blog, but I didn’t want to let this news linger for too long.  Ted and I will periodically head over to Gastonia to see and photograph the progress as we can; I, for one, am anxious to see the project  happen and this grand old mill restored.  Congratulations to Lucy, Preservation NC and all the others working behind the scenes to save this historical building.  I’m sure if mills could speak, it would thank you.

Cannon Mill

Kannapolis, NC. Built:1887, demolished in 2006.

Ted and I were visiting a friend of his in Kannapolis, NC, several years ago and knowing there was a textile mill in the area, I brought the camera. We followed sign after sign directing us to Cannon Mill, and after some searching, we found it. Or rather what was left of it.

Cannon Mill, August 2006,

These two pictures were all that we could take of what remained of the old mill.  The North Carolina Research Campus has since been built on the mill site.

Cannon Mill, Kannnapolis, NC, August 2006Tp

To see more of the Cannon Mill and its demolition, I heartily recommend visiting Chad Mitchell Photography.  Click on Gallery and scroll down to Fieldcrest Cannon.

The Why and How

My pursuit of photography never really took hold until I discovered that I had an interest in architecture.  Skyscrapers, houses, churches… buildings fascinate me, a combination of beauty and function.  Even while watching movie or TV shows, I’ll be checking out the scenery for buildings.

I photographed my first textile mill, the Firestone/Loray Mill, Gastonia, NC, in 2002 and my appreciation and attraction for these particular buildings grew from there.  I’ve been asked whether I have family connections to the textile industry and the answer would be no.  However when I walk inside a mill, re-purposed or not, I feel a connection to the past and the people who worked there.  By photographing these brick giants, I feel as if I’m preserving a part of their place in history.

Remains of the Rock Hill Bleachery

The camera I’ve been using is a Canon PowerShot S5 IS that we purchased approximately three years ago and I’ve enjoyed working with it.  It’s a sturdy camera with a comfortable weight and still takes great pictures for what I need from it.  The tripod we bought for it was an additional blessing.

At the present time, I’ve photographed thirty mills in the North and South Carolina areas with one in Georgia, and I’m always on the lookout for more. I’m learning how to expand myself as a photographer  and hope others discover the beauty I see when I look up at a mill tower or feel just how tall smokestacks are when you stand at their base and look up.

There is much history in these structures and I’m honored to photograph part of it.