The history of Cone Denim dates back to over 125 years ago when two brothers, Moses and Ceasar Cone, purchased more than 2000 acres in Greensboro, North Carolina, setting into motion their vision of a marketing-based textile company.
In 1891, the Cone brothers established their first plant, Proximity, named for its close “proximity” to the cotton fields that supplied its denims. Soon, business was booming, and in an effort to accommodate the thriving company, several more factories were established. By 1902, the brothers had founded four mills — Proximity Cotton Mill, Revolution Cotton Mill, Proximity Print Works, and the White Oak Mill.
By 1908, Cone Mills was the largest denim manufacturer in the world, producing denim in various styles for various brands throughout the century. But in the late 70s, business began to decline. With sales suffering, Cone Denim was forced to close the Revolution Mill, Proximity Mill, and Proximity Print Works Mill. In 2003, Cone Mills filed for bankruptcy.
In 2004, billionaire Wilbur Ross purchased the company and formed the International Textile Group. The majority of the company was moved outside the U.S. to countries with cheaper labor. Today, the White Oak Mill is the companies last remaining factory currently in use in the United States.
While the Revolution Mill complex is currently undergoing renovations to serve new use as apartments and office space, the fourth mill, Proximity Print Works, has remained untouched since its closing in the late 70s.
Bordered by narrow, numbered streets cluttered with ranch-style houses, the old factory sits forlorn and empty. The building is in a poor state, having fallen victim to a lack of interest. Now boarded up and abandoned, the structures crumbling ledges collect dust and graffiti while its few remaining windows slowly shatter themselves out of boredom.
The mill’s walls are caked with graffiti and its floors covered in grime and debris. However, though its descent into decay has been anything but graceful, the derelict Proximity Print Works mill has faired better than almost any other site we’ve visited. Because the building is almost entirely composed of brick and reinforced concrete, its structural integrity appears relatively intact.
Unfortunately, this does little to hide the fact that this building has seen much better days. It would take years of restoration to bring it back from its ramshackle state, costing more time and money than anyone is willing to expend. Alas, it seems this mill has outlived its use.
Below is an aerial photograph of the mill as it sits today. Just one warehouse is left from the Proximity Print Mills site. A housing development has been built on what was once the old Proximity mill, as the property was sold to a local demolition company during Cone Mills’ bankruptcy back in 2004. They razed the mills, warehouses, and office buildings, and then sold the land to the real estate developer.
I assume the only reason the Proximity Print Works mill hasn’t met with the same fate is due to the depressed state of North Carolina real estate. Regardless, the future does not bode well for this once bustling factory.
GPS Coordinates: 36.101354, -79.771780