Sibley Mill

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Coordinates: 33°29′14″N 81°59′31″W / 33.487277°N 81.991975°W / 33.487277; -81.991975

Sibley Mill
Sibley Mill Photo 1.gif
Sibley Mill (building to left) ca. 2000
General information
Type Cotton Mill
Architectural style Ornate Eclectic
Location 1717 Goodrich St, Augusta, Georgia
Current tenants Unoccupied
Construction started June 1880
Completed February 1882 (HAER GA-19,1)
Owner Augusta Canal Authority
Height 110 ft to top of bell towers (HAER GA-19 Sheet 4)
Technical details
Size 76 ft wide, 528 ft long
Floor count Four
Floor area Main building 160,000 sq ft
Design and construction
Architect Jones S. Davis
References
Historic American Engineering Record GA-19, 1977
Sibley Mill ca. 1903
Sibley Mill bell towers ca. 1977
Sibley Mill site plan
Sibley Mill location just upstream of downtown Augusta

The Sibley Mill is a historic building located on the Augusta Canal at 1717 Goodrich Street near downtown Augusta, Georgia. Designed by Jones S. Davis, it was built on a site previously occupied by the Confederate Powderworks, and was completed in 1882. While the interior is typical of any textile mill of the period, its imposing exterior is notable for an ornate style variously described as eclectic and neo-gothic. Textile products were produced there until 2006, since when the building has been unoccupied. The mill was built to operate on hydropower, and continues to generate electricity today.

Construction[edit]

The Augusta Canal was greatly enlarged in 1875 in order to promote industrial development (Cashin, 136-144). After the successful opening of the Enterprise Mill in 1878, the Sibley Manufacturing Company was chartered in 1880. Jones S. Davis, the superintendent and architect of the Enterprise, was hired to organize the new mill. He soon produced drawings of a 528 feet long, three story, 24,000 spindle factory with highly ornamental architecture. Funding was raised from investors in Augusta, Savannah, Charleston, New York, and Cincinnati, Ohio (HAER, 2).

Named after the cotton broker, businessman, and civic leader Josiah Sibley, the mill was located at the former site of the Confederate Powderworks refinery building. Half a million bricks from the old Powderworks were bought for the new project at the price of five dollars per thousand, and the Augusta City Council allowed a capacity of up to 2,000 horsepower at an annual water rate of $5.50 per horsepower.

Josiah's son, William C. Sibley was elected President of the new company, and construction began around June 1, 1880 with Jones S. Davis as supervisor (HAER, 3). A fourth story was added during construction, which along with other changes raised the cost estimate from $730,313.08 to $788,452.82. William Sibley's daughter Pearl, who had laid the "corner brick" during a ceremony on 13 October 1880, also laid the last brick January 27, 1882. Water was let into the wheel pit during a grand opening celebration held on 22 February 1882 (HAER, 4). In April, 1882, capital stock was raised to $1,000,000 to cover the finished cost, including 30 tenements for mill workers (HAER, 7).

The mill was originally built to run on hydropower, transmitted from water turbines throughout the building by mechanical shafting. The wheel pit was large enough to accommodate twice the capacity required to run the mill. In 1977, three water driven generators were observed with a combined capacity of 2625 kVA (HAER, 6-7).

Architecture[edit]

The elaborately decorated exterior of the four story building has been described as 'eclectic' and 'neo-gothic'. Two towers, one containing the bell and the other a water tank, form the central feature. The center of each wing is ornamented by a colorful cast iron coat of arms of the Sibley Family which includes the saying, Esse quam videri, meaning "To be, rather than just seem" (Sibley 1908, 33). Tall iron finials crown each of these features. The entire roof line is attractively crenelated, as is the office building in front.

The tall chimney in front is a relic of the Confederate Powderworks and has no manufacturing function. It is not known why so much effort was put into appearance, and the King Mill which followed shortly is quite austere. The interior is typical of any other textile mill of the period (HAER, 8).

Business History[edit]

The mill opened with disappointing results in a time of overcapacity, nevertheless in 1884 additional machinery was purchased to bring the complement to 35,136 spindles and 672 looms. Automatic sprinklers were installed after a fire and consequent two month shutdown to repair damage. More machinery and higher demand increased the mill's cotton consumption from 2,153,747 pounds in 1883 to 8,547,016 pounds in 1894. In 1895, machinery was further increased to 40,250 spindles and 1,109 looms. The mill came to be regarded as a well managed and profitable operation, and its reputation was enhanced by its physical appearance (HAER, 5).

The mill's sound management broke down after the retirement of William C. Sibley in 1896. Sales fell below capacity in 1911. An attempt to recruit immigrant labor from the north failed, as most of these workers left after only a few days. In 1914 the mill was criticised for lack of reinvestment in new machinery. The mill's status in the community declined as the city tried to reposition its image from "the Lowell of the South" to "the Garden City of the South" in order to attract northern winter tourists (HAER, 10).

In 1921 controlling interest was sold to the Graniteville Company, and by 1940 Graniteville had completely absorbed both the Sibley and the Enterprise mills. The last seven company-owned dwellings were sold in 1969 (HAER, 8). Graniteville Company was purchased in turn by Avondale Mills in 1996 (need citation).

  • *NOTE* The following paragraph is very interesting but Wikipedia requires that all material must be attributable to a reliable published source. Please provide sources for the following paragraph. Any material lacking a reliable source directly supporting it may be removed. Please see Wikipedia:Verifiability *NOTE*

Sound management actually became suspect after father Josiah Sibley passed. Mis-management in the early 20th century spurred board members to replace leadership with T.S. Raworth the then paymaster/secretary as President. Shortly thereafter Raworth acquired a controlling interest in the mill and enjoyed numerous years of expanding profitability mainly through a relationship with the Ford Motor Company supplying cotton duck for automobile interiors (having 2 offices in Detroit, MI during this time period) and purchasing inexpensive raw materials from Cuba. During this time many of the homes in the Harrisburg section of Augusta were constructed by the Mill for labor and their families. Additionally, during his tenure Raworth invested in many community businesses to include several insurance companies, banks and savings and loans and was instrumental in erecting modern facilities for the local hospital and assisting the local media company, The Augusta Chronicle/Herald with financial assistance whereby he and other local business leaders acquired the paper and successfully ran it for many years till it was sold to the Morris family who continues to operate the paper. In the early to mid 1920 era Raworth purchased the Tombigbee Mills in Columbia, MS and sold his interest in Sibley Mill to the Verdery family who controlled Enterprise Mill which shortly thereafter disposed of its interest in the mills to the Gregg family which owned the nearby Graniteville Manufacturing Company. The Depression and downturn in cotton goods in the early 1930 era negatively affected mill operations in the Augusta, GA/Clearwater, SC area and its mills.

Closure[edit]

When observed in 1977, the mill manufactured denim for Levi-Strauss, using 32,700 spindles and 634 looms to produce 22 million pounds of product per year (HAER, 11). In 1999, carding and spinning operations were discontinued (The Augusta Chronicle, 3 September 1999). Denim finishing continued until 2006, when the mill shuttered completely and all processing equipment was removed. Pressure from foreign competition was cited as a cause, as well as the 2005 Graniteville train derailment disaster which damaged upstream processing in Aiken County, SC (Augusta Chronicle, 30 June 2006).

Future[edit]

In 2010 the idle Sibley Mill was purchased by the Augusta Canal Authority, which continues to operate the hydropower unit (Augusta Chronicle, 31 August 2010). The Authority plans to market the site for redevelopment and to have the site approved under the Brownfield Program pursuant to Georgia's Hazardous Site Reuse and Redevelopment Act (The Augusta Chronicle, 10 September 2010 and 23 February 2010). In 2011 a 77,000 square foot Kroc Center was completed directly across the Augusta Canal, with architectural elements complementing the Sibley Mill (Augusta Kroc Center web site ... About Us).

May 4, 2016 The Augusta Canal Authority announced a 75-year ground lease of its Sibley Mill property to Cape Augusta Digital Properties, LLC. Cape Augusta will become master developer of the cyber campus. The Authority will continue to operate the hydropower plant inside of the mill and provide Cape Augusta with water and electricity to cool the data center's computers. They will also support the cyber-related activities that are on-going in Augusta such as the Cyber Command Center at Fort Gordon and the cyber activities at Augusta University.

References[edit]

Augusta Chronicle Archives should be thoroughly examined with respect to general history, business history and ownership.

External links[edit]