The Lonaconing, Maryland silk mill, last operated by General Textile Mills, is one of my favorite buildings to photograph. From its early 20th century machinery to its dated calendars and papers, it is remarkable that this testament to industrial heritage remains standing well over 50 years past its closure.
The Klotz Throwing Company constructed a mill in Lonaconing along George’s Creek and the Cumberland & Pennsylvania Railroad, opening in April 1907. The silk throwing mill would wound raw silk into a thread where it would then be shipped to silk manufacturers and woven into various textiles. The raw silk, imported from Italy and later other countries, would be first washed, dried, and spun before being wound, or doubled, into skeins of thread.
Klotz’s successor, General Textile Mills, closed its Lonaconing factory in July 1957 over a dispute regarding a request to increase wages by a nickel.
The mill remained empty for over twenty years until Herbert Crawford and a partner purchased the property when a company had expressed interest in restarting the factory’s operations. Crawford attempted over the years to secure economic development grants to reuse the complex as a silk mill, and at one point, turned down a $300,000 offer from a salvage buyer for the machinery. In later years, Crawford sought funding to preserve the interior as a museum, but a lack of funding and state initiative nixed any proposals.
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. It was then listed in an Endangered Maryland publication, the first statewide list of historic properties that were threatened with demolition or collapse. The silk mill was described as “the only remaining silk mill in the United States with its machinery, company records, and workers’ personal effects remaining unchanged from the time that the factory ceased operations.”