In the small town of Bellemont on the banks of Alamance Creek just a few miles south of Burlington lie the ruins of one of the earliest extant mill villages in Alamance County.
Built in 1879 by brothers Banks and Lawrence Holt, the village is comprised of a three-story brick mill, a schoolhouse, church, and 23 additional cottages. Due to their early post-civil war construction techniques, the mill and its surrounding settlement are architecturally significant.
These aforementioned construction techniques include the use of circular saws for framing timbers, which made for a faster and more precise method of cutting lumber, and a “slow-burn” construction method, a strategy of assembly devised for the resistance of fire to which manufacturing buildings were particularly subjected.
The location of the Bellemont cotton mill village was selected for its proximity to the Alamance Creek. Prior to the development of steam-powered textile mills, it was necessary for a mill to be built with accessibility to a reliable water source for its waterwheel. This often led many water-powered mills to be built in rather isolated or rural areas.
After the site had been established, the Holt brothers then invited farmers from the surrounding areas to come work for them. In northern states, it was common for mill owners to build dormitories to house their workers. However, the southern mill owners chose instead to construct individual dwellings. In addition to housing, the community included a school, church, and several stores, thus leading to the development of the Bellemont Mill Village.
A forty year period of steady growth in the textile industry in Alamance County followed the construction of the village. But in the mid-1920s, this growth came to an abrupt end with the introduction of synthetic fabrics. Soon after, production of cotton goods became less profitable, and Bellemont Mill began to suffer. Faced with plummeting sales and the high cost of maintaining the village, the mill was sold and the community subdivided.
In the years following, the mill switched hands more than five times until finally, in 1981, the mill was sold to its final purchaser, Tasker Industries of Greensboro. Since its purchase, the mill has remained vacant.
Today, little remains of the old mill structure. Having been abandoned for almost forty years, the building has all but collapsed. Sometime during its near two decades of neglect, the mills’ roof caved in, its heavy timbers crashing down through two of the buildings three floors. Though the mills brick exterior walls remain, only time will tell how long they continue standing.
Due to the severity of its decay, the concrete stairwells, basement, and a few outbuildings are the only accessible portions of the mill. Very few windows remain, the glass panes having fallen from their rotting sills many years ago. It’s a very desolate site; besides the occasional urban explorer, the only activity this mill sees is that of the feral cats that live beneath its rotting timbers.
Though the village around this century-old mill continues to be a viable community, the mill itself has long been forgotten. Just a shell of what it once was, time has run out for this once historic landmark.
GPS Coordinates: 36.0277917415519,-79.44016456604