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A recent shot of the Cedar Falls Mill with historical marker.   Photo by Randolph Heritage Conservancy

Cedar Falls mill proposed for historic preservation

CEDAR FALLS — The vacant textile mill at Cedar Falls is being recommended as a historic landmark. The site is located at 1120 Wicker-Lovell Road.


The Randolph County Historic Landmark Preservation Commission voted unanimously to recommend the Cedar Falls Manufacturing Company as a historic landmark before the Franklinville Town Board, which has jurisdiction over Cedar Falls. The town board has final approval for historic preservation.


The property is currently owned by Randolph Heritage Conservancy, which is also involved in preserving what’s left of the Randolph Mills textile plant in Franklinville. HLPC board members Mac Whatley and Warren Dixon recused themselves from voting on the Cedar Falls recommendation since both are involved with the conservancy.


The application for historic designation reports the following:


“The Cedar Falls Manufacturing Company, established in 1836 where the Deep River bends around the north and south edges of Cedar Island, was the first industrial cotton textile mill in Randolph County, and among the earliest such operations in the state. Its partially-surviving 1848 three-story brick factory building is at the core of a sprawling 146,118 square-foot manufacturing complex which exemplifies the industry that drove Randolph County’s economy, and built prosperity and community for its residents, into the 1980s. The overall 32.45-acre site encompasses two dams and a mill race that provided the factory with water power. So historically important is the site that it has been selected as home of the North Carolina Textile Museum by the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. …”


The area for historic preservation includes not only the mill but two dams, the mill race, footings of the old covered bridge and Cedar Island, which was used by the community for social events.


Whatley, who is chair of the HLPC, told the other members that the site is located on the proposed Deep River Rail Trail, which will link the Cedar Falls mill with the Franklinville mill. The Cedar Falls Manufacturing Company will be the official NC Textile Museum but Franklinville will have textile displays as well. 


During a public hearing on the proposal, Richard Underwood said, “I think it will be a good thing.” He said he grew up in Franklinville during the heyday of textiles in the county.


At-large member Chip Womick made the motion to recommend the proposal to the Franklinville Town Board. The motion carried unanimously. The next meeting of the town board is Monday, Aug. 8, at 7:30 p.m.

The Cedar Falls Manufacturing Company meets the criteria for designation as a Randolph County Historic Landmark as follows:

• It represents a critical part of the county’s heritage, as it exemplifies both the origin and development of Randolph County’s most important industry, and its associated economic, cultural and social impact.

• It is associated with significant persons throughout its history who have contributed to the cultural, economic, social and historical development of Randolph County, including the county’s early leading citizens, and later figures of statewide and nationwide import.

• It represents important architecture, as it evidences the evolution of a major textile factory over almost 150 years.

• It represents a distinctive theme, that of the riverside textile industry, the prosperity the industry wrought and the communities it engendered.