Lonaconing Silk Mill

The Lonaconing Silk Mill, situated in Lonaconing, Maryland, stands as one of the last remaining intact silk mills in the United States. Previously operated by the Klotz Throwing Company and General Textile Mills Company, this historic complex is located within the National Lonaconing Historic District. Recognized for its preserved machinery, the mill has been nominated by the George’s Creek Watershed Association for inclusion in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.


In the early 1900s, Duncan Sloan, a banker, accidentally learned about the Klotz Throwing Company’s search for a location in western Maryland to establish a silk throwing mill. 2 6 This facility would process raw silk into thread, which would then be distributed to silk manufacturers for weaving into various textiles. The raw silk, imported from Italy and other countries, would undergo washing, drying, and spinning before being wound into skeins of thread.

Sloan proposed Lonaconing as an ideal site for this mill to George Klotz and J.H. Britton. 2 6 The town’s advantageous location along the Cumberland & Pennsylvania Railroad, running through George’s Creek, and its proximity to abundant coal reserves for powering steam machinery made it a strategic choice. Following Sloan’s suggestion, a public meeting at the local Evans Opera House resulted in the town’s citizens agreeing to Klotz’s proposal for establishing the mill.

To finance the construction, estimated at $100,000, a committee of seven local businessmen secured bonds from the Lonaconing Savings Bank, raising $47,000 towards the project. 6 In February 1901, Klotz dispatched foremen from its Fredericksburg mill to set up a temporary facility in Lonaconing’s Allegheny Furniture Building. 7 The groundbreaking for a new, permanent mill, to be built by S.W. Wise Construction Company, occurred on August 13, 1905. 2 6

However, on February 7, 1907, construction workers staged a walkout over wage disputes. 6 Despite this setback, the construction schedule remained unaffected. The new mill’s construction, including the installation of equipment, was completed by April 7. 10


In its initial years, the mill processed raw silk and Douppinni, a high-quality silk often used in wedding gown production. 6 The process involved twisting and winding silk into yarn, which was then utilized by knitters and weavers. During this process, silk threads sometimes broke and were manually tied together by operators. Other workers were engaged in steaming, dyeing, and stretching the silk, while some managed the shipping of the finished products to the market.

Just a year after its establishment, the mill began repaying the investment made by Lonaconing residents. 6 Due to growing demand, the mill expanded in 1916 and again in May 1918. 8 By 1922, Klotz contributed approximately $100,000 annually to Lonaconing’s economy.

The Great Depression impacted the silk industry, leading to reduced wages and decreased demand. In February 1933, 111 workers earned a total of $1,547. 6 Financial challenges prompted the Klotz Throwing Company to reorganize as the General Textile Mills Company. 4

Post-Depression, employment at the mill increased, but fluctuating orders sometimes resulted in weeks of reduced operational capacity. 9 World War II further disrupted operations when the U.S. declared war on Japan, a major silk supplier, leading to trade sanctions that caused a raw silk shortage. 6 Consequently, the Lonaconing mill closed from January to October 1945. 10 Upon reopening, General Textile employed only 200 workers at reduced wages due to the ongoing order scarcity.

After the war, while raw silk remained difficult to source, the company adapted by switching to rayon, a more affordable synthetic material. 6 In 1946, an addition was built to accommodate the production of synthetic materials.


In 1917, employees of the Klotz Throwing Company unionized under the United Mine Workers (UMW). 6 This initial choice of union was influenced by the fact that many employees had family members already affiliated with the UMW through their work in the numerous coal mines in the area. Later on, the employees’ union affiliation shifted to the United Textile Workers of America (UTWA).


The employment levels at the silk mills were consistently fluctuating. In September 1920, the Klotz Throwing Company had 359 employees with a payroll of $8,491. 6 However, by mid-1941, this number had dropped to between 70 and 80 employees, further declining to 27 by August 16, and down to just five by the end of the year. Despite these reductions, the workforce briefly increased to 30 in February 1942 and then to 94 by late March.

In 1942, a dispute over a nickel wage increase led to a strike, resulting in General Textile deciding to close the Lonaconing operations on June 23, 1957. 11 By the end of that month, only six workers remained, 6 and by July 7, with just five employees left, the factory was permanently closed. 1 11 A small team of four employees stayed on for several years to maintain the building and equipment.


In 1978, Herbert Crawford and a partner purchased the former General Textile Mill, spurred by interest from a company in restarting operations. 5 11 Crawford made efforts to obtain economic development grants to repurpose the complex as a silk mill and even rejected a $300,000 offer from a salvage buyer for the machinery. 11 Later, he sought funding to convert the interior into a museum, but these plans were hindered by a lack of funding and state support. 5 11

In 2007, the George’s Creek Watershed Association nominated the Lonaconing mill for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. 1 3 It was also featured in the first statewide list of Endangered Maryland in June, highlighting historic properties at risk of demolition or collapse. 4 The silk mill was noted as the only remaining silk mill in the United States with its original machinery, company records, and workers’ personal effects intact since its closure.

In March 2022, Brandon Sloan acquired the Lonaconing mill from the heirs of the late Crawford, who passed away on February 4, 2019. 12 Sloan aims to preserve the site as it is, with a primary focus on repairing the roof.


Further Reading


  1. “Lonaconing Silk Mill.” George’s Creek Watershed Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2011.
  2. Erkert, Kathleen. “Lonaconing Silk Mill (AKA: Klotz Throwing Mill).” TSA List. Textile Society of America, 14 May 2011. Web. 20 June 2011.
  3. “Lonaconing Silk Mill.” WHILBR. Western Maryland Regional Library, n.d. Web. 21 June 2011. Article.
  4. Alderton, Jeff. “Time Capsule.” Cumberland Times-News 28 Mar. 2007: n. pag. Web. 21 June 2011. Article.
  5. Crawford, Herb. Personal interview. 18 June 2011.
  6. Failing, Anne, et al. The Lonaconing Silk Mill 1907-1957. Cumberland: Allegany High School, 1999. Western Maryland Regional Library. Web. 22 June 2011. Article.
  7. “History from the Evening Times Files.” Cumberland Evening Times 24 Feb. 1931: 4. Print.
  8. “History from the Evening Times Files.” Cumberland Evening Times 20 May 1939: 4. Print.
  9. “Lonaconing Silk Mill to Resume Operations Next Saturday.” Cumberland News 9 Jun. 1939: 24. Print.
  10. “200 Furloughed as Lonaconing General Textile Mill Closes.” Cumberland News 18 Aug. 1951: 16. Print.
  11. “Old silk mill to become museum, shopping complex.” Star-Democrat [Easton] 10 Feb. 1997: 3A. Print.
  12. Larry, Greg. “Spinning it forward: Renovation plans set for a former silk mill in Western Maryland.” Cumberland Times-News, 4 Apr. 2022.


Add Yours →

Thanks for taking an interest in the facility. It’s time some one did.
Ugly rumor has it my great aunt lead the labor revolt that shut the facility down…

Hope to visit soon. I’m at the wrong end of the state.

I did a book on the Mill, including its sister facility in Cumberland.
Where the silk came from, how it got there, where did it go,
and what was made from it.

Would you like to sell copys at the MIll?
I can send you a copy (I may already have) to check out.

Deal would be, sale price $10, your cost $5,


So much wonderful history here. I have lived in Lonaconing my entire 68 years of life. The mill employed several aunts aged 15 then. Great uncle and greatgrandfather employed at a logging company helped cut the beams for the floors. As a child I remember hearing the noon whistle blow for lunch. My mom always was grateful her older sister worked there at age 15 and brought home a paycheck it helped them survive the depression and hardships for my grandmother who was widowed in 1933.

I was there last week as one of the artists involved in the Mountain Maryland plein air competition. Three of us painted insde the mill. It as dark, mildewed and very wet from big holes in the roof. To get in you need to contact Herb Crawford in Frostburg MD 301 689 3034. He charged us $25 each to go in but it was worth it. It won’t last much longer if he can’t get the roof stabilized before the winter, and it doesn’t look like he will be able to. Get there while you can.

I would love to get the opportunity to photograph the mail in black-and-white if you could get me the info on who I need to contact

I hope this mill will be preserved. My mother raised me by working in a Worsted Wool Mill in Augusta Springs Va. her entire life. Sadly to stay in business they sold all of the old Worsted Machinery in the 1960 and converted to making synthetic material. It finally closed the doors in 2003, after being in business for 74 years. The buildings are still standing and I think one is still in use. This Mill would make a wonderful Museum with examples of how silk was produced for many years. It would be even better if it could be opened with all the machinery there to show the entire process step by step. I hope to try to visit this site someday. “Scooter” Gregory

Excellent photos!
I would like to make a trip to shoot it…whom do I contact to do so?
Thanks for the help…and all the info

[…] just right.”  Photos taken with Canon 7d with a 18-55 2.8 Canon lens.  No flash, no tripod. View more photos and read the full story about the abandoned  Lanaconing Silk Mill Factory here. Check out the JPG contest page for a list of all contests open for submission.  Each week we’ll […]

My photo club spent most of a Saturday shooting in this lovely old mill. You could easily spend a couple of days there.

This is a great mill. What an example of textile progression. It is fascinating that it was all left intact. I really hope the mill is preserved and perhaps turned into a museum. What a fascinating look back in history. I hope to also have the opportunity to visit this mill in the future.

Hi There, i love these places, its one my list of places to vist, i hope one day that either it will stay abandoned or someone will restore it.



Leave your comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.