Lindale Mill

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It’s been probably several years since I went with a local photography group, largely because, as big as Atlanta is, groups tend to go to the same places again and again.  Group shoots are not the most exciting, as they are fairly anti-social with everyone separating to claim their turf to get the shot that no one else does.  In this case, it was a new, different opportunity, and the timing was right.  I’ve toured plenty of current and aging manufacturing plants in my career, but that’s not cause for a lingering photography exercise though I would have liked to in a good many.

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An abandoned textile mill with a long history, Lindale Mill today has areas that are in severe disrepair, demolished, or emptied for other uses.  The owner purchased it several years ago as an investment and is gradually improving the property in hopes of getting returns for alternative uses of the property, such as access to photography groups ($30) – that’s reasonable, and given the hazards of wall openings, rotting stairs, and trip hazards aplenty, I hope he has liability insurance. 

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The property includes 24 acres and three natural springs.  Presently, the cleared spaces in the mill buildings seem to be used for movie or video filming.  Events organizers are reportedly very interested in holding weddings at the site, a concert promoter says a clear space between the buildings would be a well suited venue for up to 15,000 attendees, and the water supply may some day persuade a micro brewery to take residence.  The future is not yet written, but the owner, Joe, has gone through environmental studies, etc. and has a path forward.

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I’ve been through a good number of operating textile mills, probably the earliest when I was about seven years old and then frequently in the late 80’s and early 90’s pre-NAFTA.  There’s a hum and rhythm to the machinery and a particular odor of cotton being processed, perhaps a combination of the fibers, oils and the wood structure.  This mill… not so much, just signs of decay, a musty smell in closed spaces, and ambient sounds from passing cars and an occasional train. 

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I started in the boiler house, which appears largely untouched, as in, don’t disturb the asbestos.  Looking at the boilers, however ancient they are, it’s surprising they lasted until the facility closed in 2001.  Lack of maintenance takes its toll.  Paint is peeling from most wall surfaces, often in very textured flakes.  An educated guess says they’re high in iron content.  “Field & Stream” magazines and similar are scattered on the floor of a supervisor’s office floor, and a hard hat left on a table.  It’s not hard to imagine that an announcement came through at the end of the shift, telling them not to return, particularly to a career in textiles.  Maybe, they found work in nearby carpet mills, but the majority of (the few) textile mills that remain are supported by military contracts for garments which require domestic manufacture.  Good work if you can get it.

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Pleasingly, I only saw one wasp nest, one pigeon, and otherwise an absence of rodents, spiders, snakes and the like.  Joe has done well there, but the drums of paint thinner dated about seven years after the mill closed makes me wonder if he’s helping some of the bricks breathe again.

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There were a number of signs that had their irony – the below for example at a men’s room.  Others were “out of order” (like the whole place isn’t), “hearing protection required” (at an open end of a corridor where you would now fall three stories), and “Help me” graffiti on an toilet door that needs help, never mind a “Dyeing Department” long dead.

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The full set of pictures are a click away on Flickr.  A wide angle lens is recommended… Donations accepted, etc. etc.

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