A different kind of book review

mill2As planned, I picked up The Cat, The Mill and the Murder shortly after it was released in early May.  I’ve read Leanne Sweeney‘s mystery books before, and this one didn’t disappoint.  Not only was it a satisfying read with a great mystery and an unexpected last sentence, but the backdrop was a subject near and dear to me, textile mills and textile history. Normally, I would buy an e-book edition of what I’m reading, but seeing that this involved a textile mill, I bought a paperback version so I could add it to my textile library. So rather than review the book for its story, I’m going to review it in regards to the mill.  I don’t want to give anything away about the plot – just take it from me, it’s good!

The Cats in Trouble series takes place in the fictitious town of Mercy, South Carolina, located within an hour of the Greenville/Spartanburg area and in the center of what had once been a major hub of the textile industry.  The story opens in the Lorraine Stanley Textile Mill, a three story building that had fallen into hard times with the loss of the textile industry.  Our heroine, Jillian Hart, is involved because investors had been found that were interested in repurposing the mill, though it’s up in the air whether it’ll be condos or shops.  Jillian is here for two reasons – she has studied textile history and knows about the mills, and to help humanely trap and relocate a clowder of feral cats living in the building.  What else they find in the building sets off the mystery.

Since I started the hobby of photographing textile mills, I’ve been allowed inside several of them and  Leanne’s description of an abandoned mill is spot on.  Besides the overwhelming  darkness  from closed doors and sealed windows, there is the powerful smell of decay and rot, clouds of particles from asbestos and flakes of paint on the floor. I’ve been in some areas where it feels like a sensory deprivation chamber: dark and silent. It’s musty and damp from molds and mildew.  A lot of flooring is still intact, but areas where leaking pipes or animal droppings have rotted the boards so you have to be careful where you step as they can’t support weight anymore.  Having been in these types of mills, I felt the same thing with Jillian’s description of what she saw and felt.  I was also glad to see that Jillian and I share the thrill of being in these old abandoned giants and remembering the activity in it, and the history it had been a part of.  I can almost imagine the deafening hum of the looms, the floors covered in lint and thread, and the people hard at work.

Which brings me to another enjoyable part of the book:  the mill village!  Every mill I’ve come across has one,  provided to the workers by the mill owners.  It allowed them to have homes close to their employment, and also included schools, shops and churches provided by the mill owners so that the mill village was  a town unto itself.  Leanne notes in the story the bigotry between the classes as many folks considered the Lintheads (mill workers) as  poor white trash.  She also showed the fierce pride of the mill workers through one of the characters, Jeannie.

Overall, this was a very satisfying read.  The story was great and the backdrop was well researched and made it even more enjoyable for a mill enthusiast like myself.  For that matter, I’d love to pick the brain of some of Leanne’s friends who helped her with the research – I’m always on the lookout for new mills to photograph!  And one last thing… where can I go to take courses in textile history?

 

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!

Up In Flames

Gastonia, North Carolina, is a small city that is rich in textile history and a favorite place for me to go searching for textile mills to photograph. Sadly, there’s one I didn’t know of and thus never had a chance to look for and add to my files. While checking for articles on the progress with the Loray Mill, I came across the headlines…

Firefighters battle blaze, Gaston Gazette

Charlotte Observer article

I’ve researched it as being referred to as both the Mutual Mill and the Hanes Brands Mill, and according to the Gastona Gazette article, it was built approximately 1917, primarily used for spinning yarn and closed down in 2008 according to the article.  The second article I posted from the Charlotte Observer gives much more detail on the building’s history.  Curious as to what it looked like before, I did a Google Map search and was  able to get an idea.  It’s a one-story warehouse building with no unusual features to it, not even a smoke stack.  I did notice there were a number of small mill village houses across the street from it and I hope the people living there are doing okay.

EDIT:  The fire continued into Sunday and they hope to have it contained by Sunday afternoon.  The Gaston Gazette had additional articles on the damage.  The good news is no one was injured and the surrounding homes are okay.

Additional information on mill fire

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.