LONACONING – A former silk mill dating back over 100 years is under new ownership and renovation of the historic landmark is underway.
Located on East Railroad Street in Lonaconing, the Klotz Throwing Company opened in 1907, producing silk and rayon until it closed in 1957 during a labor dispute. At its peak in the 1920s, the facility employed over 300 people.
The old mill was purchased in March by Lonaconing resident Brandon Sloan from the heirs of late owner Herb Crawford. The building is a 52,000 square foot, three-story brick structure with a basement and two upper floors with 20-foot ceilings.
A property investor, Sloan, 28, said preserving the mill was his priority.
“There’s so much potential, but the most important thing, I think, is to make sure it stays on its feet,” he said. “We have plans for the place.”
According to Sloan, Crawford did basic things to prevent the aging structure from being demolished.
“Sometimes Herb didn’t get enough credit for what he was doing,” Sloan said. “If we are here today, it is thanks to Herb. If it wasn’t for Herb, it wouldn’t be salvageable.
One of the unusual features of the establishment is that it looks the same, despite some dust and faded paint, as the day the doors closed. Dozens of spinning machines were simply turned off when the factory closed, with thousands of spools of wood remaining stacked and ready to go. Calendars hanging on the walls still show September 1957. Files remain in filing cabinets and personal items left by employees are visible everywhere.
“He’s been here (vacant) longer than he was operational,” Sloan said. “Everyone knows silk spinning. I grew up riding pedal bikes on the road here.
Sloan said there is unlikely to be any manufacturing at the site, but he wants to turn the factory into something the community will be proud of. He does not publish some of his plans, except that part of it will become a museum.
“We have some really cool plans for that,” Sloan said. “The office area and the floor with the machinery will be part of the museum, which will document the history of (the town of) Barton in Midland. This area has so much historical history with it. I think it’s important to display it.
Sloan said the immediate task was to stabilize the structure.
“The roof (repair) is first so there are no water leaks. Before we do anything, we have to clean it up and fix the roof,” he said.
The mill had become popular among explorers of off-the-beaten-path destinations. It even gained a reputation for paranormal activity after unusual events occurred at the site, according to Sloan.
“Paranormal investigators have been here before and we’ve had several occurrences…just very unusual things,” he said.
Sloan schedules “Ghost Tours” for April 15 and 16. For more information, including updates on the renovation project, visit Facebook, under “Lonaconing Silk Mill”, or call Sloan at 240-657-9518.
Cameras have been installed to prevent vandalism. “People can come and take pictures outside but we don’t want them entering the premises. This is a working area, so please do not enter it,” he said.
Sloan and his team will be hosting fundraisers, including reel sales, with all proceeds going towards renovations.
As Sloan spoke, there was a knock on the door. He answered and a woman said that some of her family wanted to help her fix the mill.
“It makes me really proud of where I come from,” Sloan said. “A lot of people have contacted me. They come and bring machinery. They do whatever needs to be done. I was born and raised here. It’s always been Coney to me.