North Highland mill’s closing next month to close chapter in Columbus textile mill history

Local News
Columbus historian John Lupold talks about the history of mill's closing

There is a lot of history wrapped up in the textile industry in Columbus.

Friday when a Gildan Yarn official confirmed to News 3 that it would close its North Highland plant off Fourth Avenue at 33rd Street, almost 100 people will lose their jobs

But it also will also close a chapter on the textile industry in the core city.

“When you look at the impact of mills on Columbus, to say that the final mill that was operating in Columbus is gone,” said Columbus historian John Lupold, who has written multiple books on the history of mills here. “It really is a significant moment in time.”

There were more than a dozen textile mills operating in three clusters. One downtown along the river, the other along Sixth Avenue and the last one in the Bibb City/North Highland area,

There has been a textile mill spinning yarn on the Gildan site in North Highland for more than 110 years. It was formerly known as the Swift Spinning Mill.

There was the Bibb Mill, Eagle & Phenix, Swift Manufacturing and Muscogee Manufacturing. They were all in the core city, and they are now gone. 

“Like the 1920s city limits, there are no mills in that area anymore,” he said. “And there were once a dozen mills operating there with tens of thousands of workers if you look at all of them. The whole economy. The whole rhythm of the place related to the shifts that everybody was on.”

The Bibb Mill, Columbus Manufacturing and Swift Spinning were built in the early 1900s after the North Highland Dam was constructed at a gorge along the river. Power from that dam — which was spearheaded by Columbus industrialists W.C. Bradley and Gunny Jordan — ran those three mills, Lupold said.

They’re still two textile mills – Gildan’s Corporate Ridge location and Denim North America – operating in Columbus. 

Gildan has six yarn-spinning facilities in the U.S., two currently in Columbus, one in Cedartown, Ga., and the others in North Carolina. 

The Fourth Avenue facility that is being closed produces yarn for socks sold under the Gildan and other labels. The demand for that product has decreased, causing the shutdown, Bell said. 

The mill sits directly behind a privately-owned building that has the sign “Might as Well” on it. The “Might as Well” was the old warehouse for the Swift Spinning operation. 

“Yeah, it is. When you look at the impact of mills on Columbus, to say that the final mill that was operating in Columbus is gone. It really is a significant moment in time.” 

longtime Columbus textile manufacturing plant is closing and nearly 100 employees will be losing their jobs at the end of July. 

Gildan Yarn management told employees at its Fourth Avenue facility this week that the plant will be closing in 60 days, Gildan Vice President for Corporate Marketing and Communications Garry Bell told News 3 Friday morning. 

The Gildan plant in Corporate Ridge will not be impacted by the closure and layoffs, Bell said. 

More than 30 Gildan employees at the Fourth Avenue have been transferred to the Corporate Ridge facility in anticipation of the closing, Bell said.  

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