Inside the forgotten mill which helped clothe America: Amazing pictures of silk mill untouched since it last worked in 1957

  • Eerie photographs show the abandoned belongings left behind by workers when Lonaconing Silk Mill closed
  • The crumbling factory in Maryland, USA opened in 1905 but by the 1950s was considered clunky and outdated
  • It finally closed its doors in summer 1957 after seeing its 300-strong staff dwindle to just a few dozen workers
  • Drink cartons, old shoes and calenders dated July 1957 were all left behind by workers on their final shift

By JOHN HALL

PUBLISHED: 08:46 EST, 11 February 2014 | UPDATED: 05:47 EST, 12 February 2014

Dusty machines and forgotten belongings fill this abandoned silk mill, frozen in time since the last workers walked out more than 50 years ago.

They are the only signs of life at the once-successful mill and have remained untouched since the workforce downed tools for the final time back in 1957.

Photographer Darryl Moran paid the factory’s current owner $75 to step back in time to give the world a rare glimpse inside the forgotten mill.

Business looked promising when Lonaconing Silk Mill, in Maryland opened in 1905 and its workforce grew to 300.

But by the 1950s, the small town enterprise’s outdated machinery could not compete with larger facilities across the country. Its employee base dwindled and now serves only as a reminder of a lost era of manufacturing in the so-called Rustbelt.

Dated: A staff calender showing July 1957 sits on a wall surrounded by dusty machinery in the abandoned Maryland silk factory. Photographer Darryl Moran paid the mill's current owner $75 for a tour of the long-forgotten site. The money will go to a fund to repair the building's crumbling roof

Dated: A staff calender showing July 1957 sits on a wall surrounded by dusty machinery in the abandoned Maryland silk factory. Photographer Darryl Moran paid the mill’s current owner $75 for a tour of the long-forgotten site. The money will go to a fund to repair the building’s crumbling roof. 
Forgotten: An Underwood Sundstrand adding machine sits alongside an old lamp and a notice advising staff to enquire about the company's insurance benefits
Forgotten: An Underwood Sundstrand adding machine sits alongside an old lamp and a notice advising staff to enquire about the company’s insurance benefits
Another calender showing July 1957 sits on the factory floor surrounded a discarded Camel cigarette packet. The factory closed its doors for the final time that month

Another calender showing July 1957 sits on the factory floor surrounded a discarded Camel cigarette packet. The factory closed its doors for the final time that month.  

It is clear that much of the paperwork in the abandoned factory has yellowed with age when contrasted with a modern day brochure advertising the historic site

It is clear that much of the paperwork in the abandoned factory has yellowed with age when contrasted with a modern day brochure advertising the historic site 

Dusty machines and forgotten belongings
Dusty machines and forgotten belongingsEerie: The image on the top shows a wooden trolley sitting in a lift, giving the impression it was left there by a worker only moments before. The reality, as the calender and dated objects in the picture on the right show, is the factory was abandoned back at the end of the summer in 1957 
Make do and mend: This battered carton contains Pepsi straws for 'the big, big bottle' and had only just been opened when the factory shut its doors for the final time in 1957
Make do and mend: This battered carton contains Pepsi straws for ‘the big, big bottle’ and had only just been opened when the factory shut its doors for the final time in 1957
An empty multipack carton for Coca-Cola bottles sits on a radiator alongside two oil cans and a forgotten pair of women's brogues in the Maryland factory
An empty multipack carton for Coca-Cola bottles sits on a radiator alongside two oil cans and a forgotten pair of women’s brogues in the Maryland factory 
Dozens of pairs of workers' shoes sit in makeshift lockers on the site. The shoes appear to have already been in bad condition when they were left there 50 years ago
Dozens of pairs of workers’ shoes sit in makeshift lockers on the site. The shoes appear to have already been in bad condition when they were left there 50 years ago.
Health and safety: An old bucket containing sand hangs from the factory ceiling. The bucket was one of the only fire defences in the factory, despite rows of wooden machinery and workers being allowed to smoke on site

Health and safety: An old bucket containing sand hangs from the factory ceiling. The bucket was one of the only fire defenses in the factory, despite rows of wooden machinery and workers being allowed to smoke on site 

Needle and thread: Boxes of Rayon thread rest on an old Acme loom in the abandoned Maryland factory. It was once run by The Klotz Throwing Mill Company

Needle and thread: Boxes of Rayon thread rest on an old Acme loom in the abandoned Maryland factory. It was once run by The Klotz Throwing Mill Company. 
A place of work: Rows and rows of empty looms dominate the factory floor. The mill was once a highly successful business, but by the time it closed in the 1950s this equipment was considered clunky and outdated

A place of work: Rows and rows of empty looms dominate the factory floor. The mill was once a highly successful business, but by the time it closed in the 1950s this equipment was considered clunky and outdated. 
Out of time: Business looked promising when Lonaconing Silk Mill in Maryland opened in 1905 and its workforce grew to 300. But by the 1950s, the small town enterprise's outdated machinery could not compete with larger facilities across the country

Out of time: Business looked promising when Lonaconing Silk Mill in Maryland opened in 1905 and its workforce grew to 300. But by the 1950s, the small town enterprise’s outdated machinery could not compete with larger facilities across the country.

A can of Esso motor oil sits on a homemade portable tool box. The rickety look of many of the items on the site make them seem even older than they actually are

A can of Esso motor oil sits on a homemade portable tool box. The rickety look of many of the items on the site make them seem even older than they actually are. 
Hygiene: A bottle sits on a sink in one of the factory's toilets. 50 years ago the mill would have been full of activity, with employees going about their daily tasks

Hygiene: A bottle sits on a sink in one of the factory’s toilets.  50 years ago the mill would have been full of activity, with employees going about their daily tasks.

 

 The way they were: The archaic equipment on display provides a fascinating insight into the way the local clothing industry worked in the 1950s

The way they were: The archaic equipment on display provides a fascinating insight into the way the local clothing industry worked in the 1950s. 

The way it was: inside a similar silk mill in Buffalo, upstate New York, before World War One. Its mostly female workforce are shown in front of silk looms which they operated

The way it was: inside a similar silk mill in Buffalo, upstate New York, before World War One. Its mostly female workforce are shown in front of silk looms which they operated

1948 Photo

July 16, 2011

CNN visits local silk mill

Emily Newman Cumberland Times-News

LONACONING — To tell the story of a dying industry in the United States and to highlight the pastime of urban explorers, a CNN news crew spent their Saturday at Lonaconing’s abandoned silk mill.

“It’s (these)…things that hold onto history,” said Dan Merica, a CNN fellow.  Merica, along with Chris Turner, a CNN photojournalist, visited the old silk mill to document the downturn of manufacturing in America and the increasingly popular hobby of urban exploring.

DC Urban Explorers (DCUE) members Andrew Straatveit, Scott Chambers and Mid- Atlantic Urban Explorers (MAUE) member Tom Benya, all visited the mill to document the historic property owned by Herb Crawford.

“We look for properties that are cool,” said Straatveit, who moonlights during the day as an electrical computer engineer. “(We look to) enlighten the public that these places exist. They’re so significant to our history.”

In 1957, the plant closed its doors to employees after a labor dispute and never reopened. One of the reasons that the structure is so attractive to urban explorers, is that since that day in 1957, things have remained relatively untouched.

“A place like this… we can enjoy it, we’re not going to disturb anything,” said Straatveit. “You walk in quietly, you walk around quietly and you leave quietly.”

Inside the silk mill, calendars hang on the walls from July and August 1957, shoes remain in their individual cubby holes and there are still bobbins on the spindles. Upstairs, the roof is slowly caving in due to rain.

Crawford said that he would like to see the old plant turned into something successful.

“I’d like to see it (succeed) but time is running out,” Crawford told Merica as the camera rolled.

Crawford said that, ideally, he would open a museum in a section of the building and, in other areas, bring businesses.

Urban explorers are quite prevalent throughout the United States. Abandoned buildings, old hospitals and other structures are explored and efforts are made to capture the beauty of the architecture and document the life that existed  before….

Emily Newman can be contacted at enewman@times-news.com.

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