Wednesday, September 30, 2015
By Brad Wright, produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Spartanburg takes its nickname of “Hub City” from the town’s history as a crossroads for multiple regional rail lines. The engine that propelled the commerce supporting those tracks was the then thriving textile industry.
Spartanburg boasted numerous textile mills that supported the small but prosperous town. As an increasingly global economy encroached on local profits, the vast majority of mills were forced to shutter their doors. Many remained vacant and in a state of horrendous disrepair, which reflected the lagging economic outlook.
Recently, however, an effort has been made to revitalize several derelict mill sites into modern economic engines. These renovated mill buildings—in Drayton, Beaumont, Arcadia and Glendale—vary both geographically and in their new function, but all reflect both this town’s appreciation for the past and its determination to continue growing.
Located at the junction of North Pine and Isom Streets, the historic Beaumont Mill dates back to 1890. Construction is underway on a $34 million project to house 400 administrative employees of the Spartanburg Regional Health System. Those employees will move to Beaumont from the hospital’s main campus in the spring of 2016, joining the headquarters staff for the Southern Conference (SOCON), which has been in a wing of the old mill for several years. “When we were looking at a master facilities plan, we needed something that was big and something that was fairly close proximity to the hospital, and Beaumont fit the bill,” said Maria Williamson, chief marketing communications officer of the hospital. The hospital will fill about 70 percent of the mill.
More windows will be added, and skylights will fill the roof to give the old mill a modern office feel. The public area of the building will include an old loom, and a large, framed mural of the mill.
On the west side of town, in the village of Arcadia, one of the original Mayfair Mills factories has been converted into the luxury Mayfair Lofts, and renovation on another nearby has begun. Developer Pace Burt of Albany, Ga., converted the 1923 Baily Plant into 107 apartments about a decade ago and now is beginning work on the 1909 Arcadia Mill just up the street. The new renovation will add 60 to 80 apartments and will be completed in 2017.
Ironically, the site of some of the area’s first industrial development now hosts a redeveloped mill building in view of considerable natural beauty. Situated alongside a pristine section of Lawson’s Fork, the former office of the Glendale Mill is now home to Wofford College’s Goodall Environmental Studies Center. The massive Glendale Mill burned in 2004, but Wofford restored the tiny office to its former glory, adding labs and classrooms. The historic bridge and smokestacks offer a fascinating juxtaposition to the surrounding environment, and it is truly one of Spartanburg’s most tranquil offerings.
While my heart favors the old Glendale Mill site, my head has to admit that the crown jewel of Spartanburg’s mill renaissance will be the Drayton Mills renovation. Located on Drayton Road not far from Beaumont Mill, the Drayton Lofts project is truly a sight to behold. Consisting of the multi-story spinning building (erected in 1902) and the more “modern” weaving building (1928), the sheer scale of the redevelopment is awe-inspiring.
Tara Sherbert, the director of the firm overseeing the $35 million project, graciously gave me a tour of the ongoing construction. From this single site they will be adding 269 new apartments (with 70 different floor plans) to the community. Walking down the hallway you get the feeling of being in a European cathedral. It is monumental in the truest sense of the word. Each apartment features as much original flooring and brick as possible, and areas that were damaged were required to be rebuilt to the original specifications. To say that these are luxury apartments would be an understatement.
In addition to the residential facilities, which will be completed by February 2016, there will be a wave pool, walking trail, and first class gym facility. Future plans include multiple commercial and dining locations, as well as the potential for additional expansion across the property.
What most impresses me, however, is the love and enthusiasm Ms. Sherbert exudes. Though not a native, she speaks about the mill, surrounding village, and Spartanburg as a whole as if she were one of our own. She tells me that in her 20-plus years of repurposing derelict mills, she has never found a village that is as welcoming and in as good of shape as the Drayton community. I am left with no doubt that she is exceedingly proud of how this project will impact the town. To me, her passion speaks to the way this town can draw in outsiders and make them want to stay.
Each of these mills represents a part of Spartanburg’s industrious past. All could have easily fallen into a further state of disrepair and neglect. But they have all been given new life and a new purpose and, much like the town itself, inspire hope for a brighter future.
Spartanburg Regional Health System http://www.spartanburgregional.com/
Mayfair Lofts http://www.mayfairloft.com/
Goodall Environmental Studies Center https://www.wofford.edu/goodallCenter/
Drayton Lofts: http://www.draytonlofts.com/
Brad Wright, Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
Brad Wright is a Spartanburg native and works as a resource development officer for the United Way of the Piedmont. When he’s not entertaining his lab Rex Banner you can find him at most Hub City Bookshop events or jogging along the Mary Black Rail Trail. He loves to discuss pop culture ephemera, the Appalachian Trail and his recent appearance on Jeopardy!