Created By: Seeking Abraham Project
701 Easley Bridge Road is home to Greenville County’s once largest textile mill. In March of 1912, J. Irving Westervelt opened the mill in West Greenville. South Carolina’s Historic Properties Record states that by October 1913, the mill was reorganized by Furman professor, Bennette Geer. Geer later became President of the university and changed the mill’s name to Judson. The name came from his Furman colleague Charles Judson, who taught mathematics and mechanics and was acting President of Furman University from 1902 to 1903, according to Furman’s Special Collections and Archives. With that progressive, educational mission in its early founding years, the Judson Mill impacted the Greenville community tremendously, but also came with the usual mix of progressivism and paternalistism held by ist owners.
Judith Bainbridge, a columnist for the Greenville News writes:
"Facing challenges, mills laid off workers after war began in Europe. Judson “operatives” responded with a strike. Geer fired organizers and closed the mill for two weeks, and workers returned. In the 1920s, Judson became the first southern mill to produce the DuPont’s company new rayon fabric. By 1927, selling agent Deering-Millikin owned most of Judson’s stock, although Geer continued as president of the largest mill in the county until 1933. In 1939, Milliken sold its 565 village houses to residents. In 1960, Judson became a division of Milliken & Company."
After a century of the textile mill industry being built, the Westervelt or Judson Mill came to a close in 2015. However, developers are keeping in mind the values of those who founded the Mill, its historical significance, and the needs of the community living in the area today. Charles Judson’s legacy of education, social, and economic philosophies adds to the growth of the Greenville community and will foreseeably be upheld when the development is finished.
According to Greenville News, the mill was purchased in 2017 by Ken Reiter, of the Belmont Sayre firm based out of Chapel Hill, NC. With support of Reiter’s firm and many concerned politicians and citizens of the community, a plan had been created to revitalize the mill. Like so many other converted mills, this makes the old Judson Mill Village of West Greenville vulnerable to gentrification. Longtime area residents may have to leave as prices skyrocket.
The developer’s response to this claim is to hopefully renew the thirty-six acres of mill property. As of 2017, Greenville News stated the property’s development has a potential of $75 million toward the local tax base and a creation of around a hundred potential new jobs. Construction and transformation of the mill is still a work in progress, but the plan’s initial phase is to create apartment spaces. Four years have passed since the mill’s official closing. After Reiter’s firm made the purchase of the mill, members of the Judson Mill community have noticed a spike in interest of their property’s potential worth for the future.
While the developers are still in the process of finalizing plans for the space, there has been an increase in the neighborhood’s social morale. Once construction begins, the barbed wire fence, which now surrounds the mill for liability precautions, is to be taken down, and the company will pay for a cleanup throughout the neighborhood. Creating a more open community and having shops, apartments, and event spaces will make a beneficial difference to the citizens of the community. Redeveloping a textile mill into a multi-use complex can help restore and upgrade the semi-deteriorated property; it will help rebuild an under-developed sector of the city in a positive way.
According to the Greenville County Planning Department, the goal of the new development is to improve educational opportunities in the Judson community and will carry on the founders’ legacy to further expand knowledge to all. The department hopes to work with the Community Association, Greenville County Codes Department, and the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority to implement a community watch program, will address code violations, and make the community’s residents aware of housing resources moving forward.
Just like Judson and Geer, wealthy men leading a progressive "remaking" of Greenville a century ago, developers come into such a space with the same heady visions of city- and culture-making.
Suggested Readings and Photo Citation
Bainbridge, Judith. "Judson Mill Once Was Largest Mill in Greenville County." The Greenville News. August 09, 2017. Accessed March 18, 2019.
"Collection on Mary C. Judson: Biographical Sketch." LibGuides. Accessed March 18, 2019.
Greenville County Planning Department. "Judson Community Plan." 2011. Accessed March 14, 2019
Mitchell, Anna B. "Developer: Historic Judson Mill's $100M Transformation Remains a Work in Progress." The Greenville News. December 28, 2018. Accessed March 18, 2019. https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/2018/12/28/judson-mills-100-m-transformation-remains-work-progress/2336488002/.
Mitchell, Anna B. "Historic Judson Mill's 'transformation' into Urban Development: Details of Project Released." The Greenville News. November 07, 2017. Accessed March 17, 2019. https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/money/2017/11/07/judson-mills-transformation-developer-releases-details/837728001/.
SC Dept of Archives. "Judson Mill." SC Historic Properties Record: National Register Listing: Judson Mill [S10817723084]. Accessed March 19, 2019. https://schpr.sc.gov/index.php/Detail/properties/46861.
Nota Bene: This post was originally contributed by Caroline Smith, a student who tragically passed away before completing the draft of this assignment.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Milling Around Greenville, South Carolina