Demolition of Cannon Mills Plant 7 stopped for now

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
A nonprofit agency that owns the former Cannon Mills Plant No. 7 property in Salisbury plans to demolish the facility, which is the centerpiece of a National Register of Historic Places mill district.
FCS Urban Ministries of Atlanta received both a state and city demolition permit to remove the former textile complex, but City Manager David Treme rescinded the Salisbury permit two weeks ago.
FCS Urban Ministries had not given written notice of its demolition intentions to the Historic Preservation Commission. A section of the city code requires the notice so a 90-day waiting period can begin.
The former textile plant, which has been vacant for many years, is located at 423 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.
The 90-day waiting period is designed to give the owner or any other interested parties time to negotiate and possibly avoid a demolition. Historic Salisbury Foundation has shown an interest in saving at least parts of the mill property.
Jack Thomson, managing director for Historic Salisbury Foundation, said his organization has corresponded with Robert Lupton, founder of the Atlanta nonprofit.
“We hope at the end of the day we can have something saved over there,” Thomson said. “… It’s been a challenging conversation.”
A Post call to FCS (Family Consultation Service) Urban Ministries in Atlanta was not returned Monday. The organization has not announced what it plans to do with the property.
If the whole complex cannot be saved from demolition, Historic Salisbury Foundation has asked about possibly saving two of the smaller early structures which face toward Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
Some other early buildings are “monumental in scale” and may be tough to save, Thomson noted.
After the city receives a written notice and the 90-day period is over, the demolition work can start.
The Historic Properties Commission or Salisbury City Council has no authority to prevent a demolition. Although the property is part of a National Register of Historic Places District ó the Kesler Mill Historic District was approved in 1985 ó it is not in a locally designated historic district, which offers at least a yearlong waiting period.
Applied Abatement Demolition already is on the site removing asbestos.
Chris Branham, codes services manager for Salisbury, said the asbestos removal is a necessity whether the former textile buildings are torn down or not.
Many of the windows on the main manufacturing plant already have been taken out in connection with the asbestos removal, Branham said.
JFS Properties of Atlanta purchased the mill property from Fieldcrest-Cannon in 2002 for $250,000.
JFS Properties then deeded the property as a gift to FCS Urban Ministries in January 2007.
The FCS Urban Ministries Web site describes the non-profit as a Christian community development organization that “partners with declining inner-city neighborhoods to bring about social, economic and spiritual rebirth.”
Through the years, hopes had surfaced periodically that the mill buildings could be redeveloped for retail or residential purposes, but nothing ever came of those plans.
Generally, all of the buildings on the 14-acre property predate 1928, when Charles Cannon consolidated this and many other small mill companies under the umbrella of Cannon Mills.
The Kesler Manufacturing Co. first built a textile operation on the site in 1895-96. The company was organized in the summer of 1895 by some of the more prominent businessmen and landowners in Rowan County.
The original incorporators included Tobias Kesler, for whom the company was named; Edwin Shaver, James Samuel McCubbins and Napoleon Bonaparte McCanless. Kesler was a prosperous farmer and the largest landowner in Rowan County.
Kesler also became the new mill company’s largest stockholder.
Over the next 30 years, numerous other buildings were added, including an office (1910); machine shop (1917), weave building (1903), weave mill expansion (mid 1920s), a picker room (mid 1920s), three warehouse buildings (1915 and the mid 1920s) and a waste house (mid 1920s.).
Company-owned mill houses ó some of which remain today ó also were built around the manufacturing operation and make up the historic district.
Kesler Manufacturing struggled from its start and, in 1899, the ownership and management changed.
J.W. Cannon, the father of Charles, assumed leadership of the company and transformed it into a profitable operation. Charles Cannon took over the presidency of his father’s operation in 1921.
From the 1928 consolidation, the Kesler Manufacturing complex became known as Cannon Mills Co. Plant No. 7.
Structures on the site have a utilitarian design common of early textile buildings.