The Last Silk Mill

The Last Silk Mill - Lonaconing

It's not often we come across a property that has a real chance of being saved. More often than not our work seems to serve as a final farewell to a place who's job is finished and time has passed. This silk mill is different - Our motivation is not to pay homage to a place which will soon be nothing but a memory, our aim here is to spread public awareness about a place that needs the help of as many people as possible, as soon as possible. At the end of this write-up you will find contact information, please help out if you can.

The concept for the Lonaconing silk mill was birthed in the early 1900's when a local banker by the name of Mr. Duncan Sloan overheard that the Klotz Throwing Company was looking for a suitable site for their new plant. Mr. Sloan approached the Klotz Company and offered his hometown of Lonaconing as a location for them to consider setting up shop. He cited the low cost of fuel and surplus labor force in the area as key points for consideration. The coal industry that drove the region had a very high layoff rate, and the mill would supplement wages and provide a more steady employment opportunity. Lonaconing was also easily accessible via railway, an important thing to consider when setting up industry in the early 1900's.

Within several short weeks a town meeting was held at the Evans Opera House in Lonaconing. The Klotz Throwing Company proposed construction of their new silk mill within the town, and the townspeople agreed to the plans. Ground broke for the new mill, August 13, 1905, and by the 1920's the mill employed over 300 people. Unfortunately, by the 1940's and 50's it became apparent that the old machines and relatively small mill proved no match for the much larger and modern facilities it was now competing with, and in 1957 the mill was forced to close. Burt Rowan, who worked at the silk mill during the 1940's had this to say about the silk mills role in the small town of Lonaconing, “It kept the bread and butter on a lot of people’s tables because of the coal mine strikes and other problems... it really helped.”

The mill sat unused, but secure until the 1970's, when it was privately purchased by a local resident who envisioned saving the old place for future generations. Today he is on his mid-seventies and still holds out hope for the slowing decaying mill. We have read several first-hand accounts of the mill, comparing it to a time capsule... but standing there, watching water flowing in though blackened ceiling boards, it looked more a tomb. The mill is dying, and without a new roof, there will be no hope of preservation. The elderly owner still comes to the mill regularly, taking time away from his wife who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease , to empty buckets of rain water out the third floor window. Being the last intact silk mill in the United States, it was placed on the Endangered Maryland list in 2007, but sadly no real assistance has followed. Some plastic tarping has been added as a temporary and partial solution, but without a new roof, all may finally be lost to history.

Here is a link which will bring you to the contact information for those serving in governmental positions in the town of Lonaconing. If you can, please reach out and see what can be done to help the old mill.

You can also contact the owner directly - Herb Crawford -  (301) 268-1168.

It was an eerie kind of silence to be found within the old mill, where once the whir of machinery was so common.

Funny how such mundane every-day items can seem so poignant.

Stacks and stacks of spindle crates.

Cubby holes where employees would store away personal belongings before their shift began.

Inside the state of the roof is apparent.

This is an older video of ours. When watching, you may notice that it has a different "feel" to it than our current-day films. This is because the style of our cinematography has progressed over time, and our equipment has changed and improved throughout the years. We have chosen to leave our older videos available for viewing online to illustrate the evolution of our work.