|rendering of Southern Bleachery development/Clemson grad Seth Lauderdale
In 1924, textile manufacturing dominated the economy in the Upstate area of South Carolina including Greenville, Greer, and Taylors. Also, during that year, a finishing plant called the Southern Bleachery was built that took the raw output from the mills and converted it into fancy goods for resale.
But this was no ordinary factory, it was a small community that included housing for workers and bosses, churches, stores, baseball and basketball team, a 9-hole golf course, and a tennis court.
Through great leadership, the Southern Bleachery managed to stay open supporting its workers during the Great Depression and supporting the war effort during World War II. However, it could not fight against globalization, cheap labor rates in third world countries and cheaper imported foreign goods. In 1967, the Southern Bleachery closed.
Fast-forward to 2007 and a new beginning has been imagined for the abandoned and overgrown Southern Bleachery. With 1,000,000 sq. Ft. to work with, Kenneth and Ruby Walker saw a hidden beauty among the ruins. So, with a new beginning came a new name, Taylors Mill, and a new use for the spaces to attract artists, craftsmen, hobbyists, small businesses and entrepreneurs. Along came another pair in Lawrence and Ashleigh Lawrence who believed in the Walker’s vision. They imagined a place of community, celebration, and culture. The Walker’s started with a wedding venue that opened in 2015 and retook the name Southern Bleachery to pay respect to the historic mill community that had fallen by the wayside.
But this was just one step in the revival. They have expanded to a multi-venue festival grounds on 15 plus acres with four National Park Service rehabilitated buildings. This includes walking trails, rocking chairs, a hammock park, and food truck service.
Now, the Southern Bleachery has begun their multimillion-dollar phase two restoration of the old textile mill. This phase will cost about $10 million and is projected to be done by the end of 2020. The Greenville County Council approved the project to receive tax credits as part of the South Carolina Textile Communities Revitalization Act. It gives qualifying projects tax credits equaling up to 25 percent of their total expenses.
Along with the Taylors Mill restoration, a building on the left side as you enter the Mill property, the Butler Building, will house Junto Coffee’s roasting operation, a raw seafood bar, and a bakery. Construction will begin this year and purports to cost around $1.4 million. Tentative opening June 2020.
The Boiler Room is another renovation underway with demolition happening now. This space will be leased hopefully to a boutique hotel, co-working space or a design studio. Estimated renovation is at $2.6 million.
Luckily, the project has been able to receive the tax act credits. Restoring a site and/or building to a historic standard is much more expensive than just leveling the site and starting from scratch. But it will be so worth it in the end. We shouldn’t be so quick to just throw away the past. There are buildings in Europe that are several centuries old.
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