Gutted textile mill, Henderson, N.C.

Gutting of Henderson Cotton Mill, Henderson, N.C.  Photo by Andy Brack.

Gutting of Henderson Cotton Mill, Henderson, N.C. Photo by Andy Brack.

You can see how the interior of the old Henderson Cotton Mill is gutted into a pile of bricks in the center of this photo.

The photo represents the flip side of a story of huge success at the beginning of the last century.  Now as the mill is being razed and salvage workers are removing valuable old wood and bricks, the mill is a testament to how America’s textile industry went overseas.  Once the driver of Henderson’s economy, the yarn mill and nearby sister mill represent the gutting of the rural South’s economic engine.

“The reason they’re tearing down is they can’t afford the taxes on it,” a 37-year plant veteran told the local newspaper. “The buildings are in good shape, but it was the taxes. Nobody who worked there likes to see this. We all hate to see it go, but what can you do?”

The Henderson Cotton Mill, organized in 1895, got started the following year on the north side of Henderson. Its success led to the opening of another mill, the Harriet Cotton Mill, on the south side of the town in 1901. Both mills were major producers of cotton yarn, according to NCPedia.

The mills joined organized labor in 1943. By the end of the 1950s with modernization and global competition, workers agreed to strike, which closed the mills until February 1959 when the owners reopened with non-union workers. A contract was negotiated by that April, but by the time the strike ended in 1961, more than 60 union members or sympathizers were tried and convicted of various acts of violence, the site said.

The Henderson and Harriet mills apparently consolidated in 1995 as Harriet & Henderson Yarns, but filed for bankruptcy in 2003 and closed its doors, according to the University of North Carolina University Libraries.

Henderson, part of Vance County, had 15,320 people in 2010, according to Census estimates. Almost two thirds of residents are black. A third of residents live at or below the federal poverty level.

Photo taken July 24, 2013 by Andy Brack, © 2013. All rights reserved.