UWG to Spearhead West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Communities from Dalton to Columbus share a rich textile history. Now the University of West Georgia is spearheading a project that will link these communities and their stories both online and in real life.

Communities from Dalton to Columbus share a rich textile history. Now the University of West Georgia is spearheading a project that will link these communities and their stories both online and in real life.On April 30 UWG will host a conference for historic preservationists, business people, community leaders and anyone interested in creating the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail. The conference will be at the Sewell Mill in Bremen, 126 Hamilton Avenue, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The $10 registration fee includes a catered lunch. To register or for more information contact Dr. Keith S. Hebert, associate professor of history, at khebert@westga.edu.

The goals of the project are to tell the stories of these communities and to draw heritage tourists to the region. UWG will develop a business plan for the trail and an interactive website for users. The project is funded by the Community Foundation of West Georgia and supported by UWG’s College of Arts and Humanities and the Center for Public History.

Speakers from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Georgia Humanities Council, Three Rivers Regional Commission and UWG will be on hand to discuss how to develop the stories about the textile industry and how to preserve and interpret the historic buildings.

At the conclusion of the conference, Sewell Mill will unveil its new exhibit, "Stitching the Fabric of Community in the West Georgia Region," from 5 to 7 p.m. This exhibit, prepared by students in the public history program at UWG showcases the history of the apparel industry in the Bremen and Bowdon areas. The public is invited to attend this opening.

Georgia’s textile history meanders throughout the state but it was particularly strong across its western side. Mills from Dalton to Columbus produced cloth, socks, yarn, uniforms, grain sacks, rope, twine, carpets and materials for radial tires in the 19th and 20th centuries. Dalton once boasted it was the "Carpet Capital of the World" and Bremen called itself the “Clothing Capital of the South.”

While some of those factories remain in production, many more are now silent. After the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), many textile-related industries in the region closed or relocated in the 1990s.

Buildings have been abandoned. Communities struggle -- what to do with these ties to the past? –  and the structures fall into decay. It doesn’t have to be that way. Mandeville Lofts in Carrollton have been transformed into loft apartments and the Warren Sewell Manufacturing building is an all-purpose event and community center.

The above photo is of the Mandeville Mill in Carrollton circa 1905 and appeared in the Atlanta Constitution.